The operating losses at the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center in Kent have hit more than $740,000 in each of the last two years. COURTESY PHOTO, ShoWare Center

The operating losses at the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center in Kent have hit more than $740,000 in each of the last two years. COURTESY PHOTO, ShoWare Center

City-owned ShoWare Center in Kent loses $742,675 in 2023

Losses lower than projected but expenses continue to exceed revenue at 6,200-seat arena

Just as in 2022, operating losses in 2023 at the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center in Kent were lower than projected but still among the highest since the facility opened in 2009.

The arena lost $742,674 in 2023, according to the ShoWare Center income statement, with expenses of $4.35 million and revenue of $3.61 million. SMG, which operates the arena, projected a loss of $973,575.

“For 2023, we were better than budget by $230,000,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare Center general manager, in a May 17 email. “This was due to the 10 additional Thunderbirds (hockey) playoff games of which we only budgeted for four games. Also, there was a greater demand for concert tickets for all shows and our food and beverage numbers came in better than anticipated.”

Food and beverage concessions brought in $1.5 million in 2023, about $300,000 higher than projections.

The loss ranks as the third highest in ShoWare Center history, just behind the $744,191 in 2022 and the $752,324 in 2014. The $84.5 million arena opened in 2009 with the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team as the anchor tenant.

A strong fourth quarter in 2023 kept the losses from approaching $1 million at the 6,200 seat arena. Nine Disney on Ice shows helped boost the revenue as well as a few more concerts than anticipated.

“For 2024, we have budgeted for a $937,000 loss and we are shaping up to be a similar year to 2023 with the number of events,” Higgins said. “At this time, we are projecting to come in better than the budgeted number.”

Higgins said the third and fourth quarter of 2024 are shaping up with more events including Lamb of God with Mastodon on Aug. 17, Junior H on Oct. 5, Godsmack with Halestorm on Oct. 13, Disney on Ice on Oct. 23-27, Ramon Ayala on Nov. 3, Air 1 tour featuring Crowder on Nov. 7, Los Temarios on Nov. 15 with a second show added Nov. 14.

“We will be announcing other shows soon,” Higgins said.

The arena in 2021 had operating income of $2.97 million and expenses of $2.54 million for a profit of $436,456, according to the income statement. The ShoWare Center used $1.63 million in federal grant money (issued due to losses during the pandemic) to help turn its only annual profit since opening.

The city helps cover the losses at the ShoWare with an annual contribution of $500,000 from the general fund to arena operating costs. The city also kicks in $300,000 a year for capital costs where needed to help keep the facility upgraded.

The city charges an admission tax of 5% on each ticket sold. That money goes into the city’s general fund but is transferred into a ShoWare operating fund to help pay for capital projects.

“The current capital project we are undertaking is the replacement of the building sound system,” Higgins said. “This system is a few years past its life cycle and has been in constant repair over the last few years.”

Despite the heavy financial losses at the ShoWare Center, city leaders emphasize that the arena brings in millions of dollars to the local economy, with many restaurants, especially at Kent Station, busy during events at the facility.

No official study about the economic impact, however, has been done since 2012, which showed an estimated $25 million impact to the local economy in 2011. The Kent City Council authorized that $36,400 study on a controversial 5-2 vote. A study about how the arena could break even or make a profit, as suggested in 2012 by Councilmember Bill Boyce, has yet to be done. Boyce and then Councilmember Dana Ralph voted against the economic impact study.

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