Profits continue as arena enters a less-busy season

06/10/2010 12:00 AM

06/10/2010 6:31 AM

In its first year, Intrust Bank Arena continues to make a profit — $1.24 million through April.

Sedgwick County commissioners sounded pleased Wednesday when they heard the latest financial report on the arena.

In its first four months, the downtown venue held 37 events, including concerts, family shows, sporting events and Wichita Thunder hockey.

Gross revenue hit $2.96 million. With building operating expenses of $1.72 million, that left a net of $1.24 million, according to a report presented by Assistant County Manager Ron Holt.

Still, county officials know they have to balance the upbeat financial picture with the likelihood that the arena won't be as busy during the summer. That's because entertainers tend to do less touring then, or they focus more on outdoor venues, Holt said.

He cited some other key arena statistics:

* Total attendance in April: 65,567

* Average attendance per performance in April: 3,857

* Gross ticket sales for events that occurred from January through April: nearly $7.7 million

Although the county owns the arena, it has a contract with a company called SMG, which manages the facility.

The financial sharing between SMG and the county basically works like this:

SMG is responsible for net operating losses. At the end of each year, when the accounting gets done, SMG would get the first $450,000 of any profit, and the county would receive the next $450,000. Any amount the county has spent for capital improvements over $250,000 gets paid to the county. After that, the county would receive 60 percent, and SMG would get 40 percent.

At Wednesday's commission meeting, SMG regional general manager Gary Desjardins reminded commissioners that the arena ranks high in the nation in an industry ranking of arena ticket sales.

"I'm frankly very pleased," said commission Chairman Karl Peterjohn.

Holt said that probably 30 percent of the arena's success derives from it being a new building. The other 70 percent of the credit should go to SMG, he said.

Although Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said she is happy with the financial success, she has heard complaints from some patrons who said they weren't able to upgrade their tickets to get better seats.

Welshimer raised a concern herself, saying that the price for the "Walking with Dinosaurs" show — she thought her group paid $56 a ticket — was too much for many families. The pricing "left a lot of kids out" of seeing an entertaining and educational show, she said.

"And those kids' parents paid the 1-cent sales tax too" to support the arena, Welshimer said.

When she went to the final night of the dinosaur show in April, she estimated that 75 percent of the seats were empty. The show would have been better off lowering the price, she said.

Desjardins said that pricing and the ability to upgrade tickets depend on supply and demand and vary from event to event, resting on marketing decisions by promoters and agencies.

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