Everett public facilities district trims loss in 2014

EVERETT — Xfinity Arena and the public taxing district that owns it both lost money in 2014. But they also managed to rein in their expenses, to the point where the arena almost broke even.

“We were pretty much one good show short at the end of the year,” said Rick Comeau, the arena’s general manager.

The arena lost $35,151 in 2014, an improvement over the previous year’s loss of $140,795.

The Everett Public Facilities District, which developed and owns the arena, lost $517,000 in 2014, down from $616,000 the previous year.

The district’s losses include operating expenses, such as salaries and maintenance, as well as intangible items like depreciation of the facility, which must be accounted for even if it involves no cash going out the door.

The district also paid about $1.2 million in 2014 on the bonds it issued to build the arena in 2003. Those bonds are scheduled to be paid off by 2026.

All told, the district grossed $3.55 million in revenue for 2014, slightly down from the previous year’s $3.64 million. Revenues include ticket sales, concessions, advertising sales, naming rights and other sources of income.

Xfinity started off 2014 minus one key tenant: the National Lacrosse League’s Washington Stealth moved to Vancouver, B.C., in June 2013.

Filling that revenue gap was going to be tough.

“That was a lot of revenue we tried to make up in other ways,” Comeau said.

The arena added a number of smaller events in 2014 that could come back annually, such as a rodeo, motorcycle ice racing, and “Jurassic Quest,” a dinosaur-themed show targeted at younger audiences.

In addition, when it became apparent that revenues were falling short, the organization started cutting expenses in the form of salaries, operational costs, looking for savings in utilities and materials costs, and leaving some vacant positions unfilled.

“I think last year was a good year for us,” Comeau said. “Not as good as we hoped, but it was a step in the right direction.”

The $71.5 million arena was built in 2003 with public bonds and still carries about $50 million in debt. The city guarantees $27.4 million of that debt and refinanced those bonds with its own superior credit rating, which will save money on interest payments over the long term.

The city of Everett owns the conference center and the ice rink, and also the land underneath Xfinity Arena. The city also plans to take over ownership of the arena in 2026, when its bonds are paid off.

In the coming year, keeping the arena’s and district’s finances on the right track involves bringing in more customers.

“What we really need is just three big shows a year,” said Gary Weikel, the president of the Everett Facility District.

The first big concert of the year was Saturday’s R. Kelly show, which Weikel said sold more than 3,000 advance tickets.

In 2014, Demi Lovato and OneRepublic were the big touring acts to visit Everett, and country star Eric Church played a sold-out Tuesday night show in late 2013.

Xfinity Arena’s capacity is about 8,500 seats for concerts and 10,000 for sporting and other arena events.

This hockey season, the Everett Silvertips might qualify for the playoffs, meaning more ticket sales from home games.

Global Spectrum, the company that manages the arena, also has lined up five Sesame Street Live shows for May, and Disney on Ice returns for the third consecutive year in November, with nine “Frozen” shows.

“We’re trying to appeal to a very wide audience,” Comeau said.

“At some point during 2015, I’m hoping the majority of people in Everett will say, ‘I want to go to that show,’” he said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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