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Board OK's Grand Wayne Center proposed budget

Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board members on Monday approved the Grand Wayne Center’s proposed $4.9 million 2014 budget.

The $4,849,631 spending plan is a 3 percent increase from the 2013 budget. It calls for using $111,631 from the convention center’s cash balances to balance, but officials noted that was expected given that the convention center gives $250,000 a year toward the Harrison Square project – incentives that were used to draw the Courtyard hotel downtown.

Board president Nancy Jordan said it is important for the community to know that the Grand Wayne Center is self-sustaining and does break even. Although the contribution to Harrison Square is reducing the cash balance, having a new hotel across the street has also greatly increased the convention center’s business, officials say.

Officials said 64 percent of their revenue comes from the county hotel tax, and about 18 percent comes from renting space and audio/visual equipment. Officials are expecting a 4 percent increase in hotel taxes in 2014.

Officials rejoiced in the fact that they will not have to spend money paying attorneys for litigation with the center’s caterer, as that lawsuit was settled earlier this year, but not before costing $160,000 in legal fees.

The contract signed 25 years ago had no way for the Grand Wayne Center to leave the deal if it wanted to change caterers, so in 2011, they sued Servico, which currently operates the Hilton on Calhoun Street, asking an Allen Superior Court judge to allow the board to terminate the contract if it chooses.

The settlement approved in March let the contract end when the hotel and its catering business were later sold.

The budget includes $25,000 to pay for a strategic study to see whether the convention center needs to expand. Its last expansion opened in 2004.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the budget; it is expected to be reviewed by the Fort Wayne City Council Dec. 10 and the Allen County Council Dec. 19.

dstockman@jg.net

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