The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 30, 2020 1:00 am

Memorial Coliseum once again profitable

Venue bounces back in '19 after rare deficit in 2018


The Coliseum in 2019 was back to black.

The Fort Wayne venue ended the year with a surplus of $11,687, Randy Brown, Memorial Coliseum executive vice president and general manager, told board members during their meeting Wednesday.

It's not a big number, he acknowledged. But in 2018, the facility ran a $191,735 deficit – one of only a few times in its history.

Last year, both use days and revenue were up, while attendance was down, Brown said. Operating expenses were also up but were still exceeded by revenue.

Use days, the number of days at least one space in the facility was in use, climbed to 1,696, a 5.8% increase. Revenue reached $6,272,345 – up $287,353, or 4.8%.

The increases came despite a dip in 2019 attendance to 1.027 million from 1.064 million, about a 3% drop.

Brown attributed the dip to not having the Komets or the Mad Ants in playoffs last year. Bad winter weather got the year off to a slow start, he added.

But the attendance still placed the Coliseum at more than 1 million visitors for the 29th straight year, he said.

As for expenses, Brown said the jump to $6,260,640 from $6,176,727 came despite major savings in electricity costs from using more energy-efficient LED lighting.

But the facility also provided staff raises averaging about 3% and two salary adjustments last year – necessary to keep employees in a tight labor market, Brown said.  

He added adjustments will have to be made this year because of Fort Wayne sewer increases announced this week.

Although the increase for homeowners might be only around $2 a month, Memorial Coliseum uses a large amount of water in its catering facilities and restrooms, and that use translates to high sewer flows, he said.

“We don't know the net cost. But we have to be proactive in adjusting expenses,” Brown said.

He added the facility is one of only a few not receiving government subsidies and not running in the red. The Coliseum's 2019 economic impact was reported as $111,577,615 – a decrease of 1.84% from 2018.

But the number is still over the 10-year average and reflects the lower attendance figures, Brown said.

Attendance at big trade shows so far this year has been mostly up, Brown reported.

One exception – the Winter Bridal Spectacular – was down 34.5%, he said. The Fort Wayne Farm Show was up 10.5%, the outdoors show was up 9.4% and the Mizpah Circus last weekend was up 8.7%.

Upcoming concerts – including Kiss on Feb. 16, double Grammy winners King and County on April 17, preteen queen JoJo Siwa on April 23 and Lynyrd Skynyrd on April 25 – are all expected to be big sellers.

Siwa has already sold 5,000 tickets, and Christian contemporary musician Lauren Daigle has sold 6,000 for a concert June 19, Brown said.

The venue's staff is also looking forward to being the host city for the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament March 28-30, said Nathan Dennison, vice president of sales.

Among the four regional cities, Fort Wayne is running second in ticket sales so far, he said. 

The NCAA's Division III men's basketball regional finals and national semifinals will be played at the Coliseum on March 20 and 21.

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