Good year for concerts means more upgrades at Nationwide Arena

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The public-private operation that runs Nationwide Arena will rake in record revenue this fiscal year on the back of a strong concert lineup that brought in $29.15 million in ticket sales and a projected $41.2 million in total revenue, it said Thursday in its once-a-year public board meeting.

But Columbus Arena Management, which also took in $4.76 million in Ohio casino tax money under an agreement with the city of Columbus and Franklin County, spent every penny of that and more. CAM expects to end this fiscal year at the end of this month with a $362,000 loss, documents show.

The revenue was a result of 29 concerts and “family shows” booking the publicly owned Nationwide Arena, which the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority bought from Nationwide in 2012. Officials said about $29.1 million of that revenue went to pay promoters for events.

Next year’s budget also includes a $1 million capital budget that will be funded by a new 5% ticket tax on Nationwide Arena events that will be collected beginning July 1. Some estimates have put the anticipated revenue from the tax at up to $2.4 million a year, but Don Brown, the facilities authority’s executive director, said there is uncertainty about what it will raise.

Compared with a five-year average of expenses, operating costs to manage and maintain Nationwide Arena this year are up 52.4%, with “general administration” up 44%, “building operations” up 52%, and “security” costs up a whopping 653%, a result of taking security in-house.

The bulk of the increased expenditures are “really projects that we’re able to do,” including roof and concrete repairs, natural-gas line replacement, new spotlights, metal detectors and renovations to corporate suites, said Xen Riggs, an associate vice president of business advancement for Ohio State University who is also the chief operating officer of CAM, an entity controlled by the Blue Jackets, the facilities authority, Nationwide Realty and the university.

Preliminary financial results compiled by CAM, and fine-tuned by the facilities authority, show the arena is set to close out this fiscal year with a $1.87 million gain from operations.

Numbers released Thursday showed that had been transformed into a $362,000 loss. That’s because since mid-April, CAM has pumped the surplus into arena upgrades.

“We’re going to use this opportunity to take care of some of the things around the building that we need to take care of,” Riggs said. “We try to manage the revenue that we have.”

CAM was formed in 2012 to market and run the arena after Columbus and Franklin County struck a deal to buy the arena with the promise of using tax collections from the casino to subsidize it.

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