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Covelli Centre stages rebound in its finances

The Covelli Centre reported a significant operating surplus during the first quarter of 2022.

YOUNGSTOWN — After facing financial struggles for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city-owned Covelli Centre rebounded in the first quarter of 2022 with a $92,731 surplus.

It was significantly better than 2021’s first quarter, which had a $4,047 surplus.

It was slightly lower than 2020’s first quarter, with a $99,815 surplus. Events at the Covelli Centre and entertainment facilities throughout Ohio were canceled by state officials in mid-March of that year because of the pandemic.

The center also exceeded its budgeted surplus of $50,374 for the period between this January and March.

“Considering we didn’t have the big home run shows at the arena, I’m pleased with the quarter,” said Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management Group, which operates the center as well as the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre and Wean Park for the city. “It’s taken a little bit longer to get the arena going because of COVID, and acts going out on tour for the first time in a while are going to larger facilities.”

The $92,731 surplus would have been higher if the center didn’t have to pay about $50,000 for repairs to its ice plant and for rentals to keep it operating in the first quarter, Ryan said.

“This rental unit has caused a financial burden on the arena’s first and second quarter operating finances,” Ryan said.

JAC reached an agreement with the Youngstown Phantoms for the hockey team to pay for a new permanent ice plant, he said.

Between January and March, the center hosted events with the Harlem Globetrotters, a WWE wrestling show, two bull riding performances, two monster truck shows, a bridal show, 12 Phantoms games and a state amateur wrestling championship over two weekends.

“It’s a good start to the year,” said city Finance Director Kyle Miasek.

Also, the center generated $43,022 for the city from a 5.5 percent admission tax on tickets during the first three months of the year, Miasek said.

“We look to have a busy summer, particularly outdoors, and the fall is shaping up pretty well,” Ryan said. “The second quarter should be good though we’re still looking for those bigger shows.”

The amphitheater has several events planned starting May 27 with a Brothers Osborne concert. Because it is outdoors, the amphitheater doesn’t hold events during the first three months of the year.

The city-owned facilities had a $19,525 operating surplus in 2021 as events, particularly at the amphitheater, returned in June of that year.

Its operating surplus in 2020 was $10,915 with nothing but Phantoms games held at the center after mid-March of that year.

Both years were largely propped up by federal grant programs to help closed arenas impacted by the pandemic.

DEBT

The city borrowed $11.9 million in 2005 to pay its portion of building the $45 million center. Most of the funding came from two federal grants.

Youngstown in early June will pay $1.7 million toward the principal — the largest such payment ever.

After that payment is made, the city will owe $3.4 million toward the principal with plans to evenly split that amount over payments in 2023 and 2024 to wipe out the debt.

The city paid only interest until its first principal payment in 2011.

Youngstown also borrowed $4 million in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for the $8 million amphitheater. The rest of the money came from naming-rights deals.

The city is repaying that loan over 20 years.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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