Last stop for the circus elephants in Everett

EVERETT — Ringling Bros. and Barnum &Bailey Circus’s “Built to Amaze!” traveling show is at Xfinity Arena for seven shows this week.

The show features Asia and April, two of the circus’ iconic Asian elephants. This week will be the last chance anyone in the Pacific Northwest will get a chance to see the elephants before they are retired.

Everett is the final stop on the circus’ tour, and no shows are booked for next year.

“We don’t have any tours currently scheduled to return to the Pacific Northwest,” said Stephen Payne, the vice president of communications for Palmetto, Florida-based Feld Entertainment Inc., which owns Ringling Bros.

“This might be the last time for a while,” Payne said.

The touring company in Everett, referred to internally as the “gold” unit, is smaller than the other “red” and “blue” units, and travels by truck instead of by train.

The gold unit, which has about 100 performers and crew, has been on the road for 42 weeks this year, Payne said.

After this tour, it will be folded into the other units and the elephants will retire to the circus’ 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

That’s in line with the company’s announcement in March that it would stop all elephant performances by 2018.

Feld Entertainment owns 43 elephants total, 29 of which have been touring animals.

The company has been criticized, protested and sued over its alleged treatment of the animals, and an increasing number of jurisdictions have enacted ordinances that prohibit the use of wild animals in entertainment acts. In Washington state, the cities of Redmond and Port Townsend prohibit the display of wild animals in any public or private venue.

The circus has been a mainstay of Xfinity Arena since it opened, and has usually been a well-attended event, said Rick Comeau, general manager. The circus, which opened Thursday, has seven shows scheduled through Sunday.

Xfinity Arena, owned by the Everett Public Facilities District, has come close to breaking even on an operating basis, but it is dependent on the city to pay its debts.

Comeau said the loss of the circus isn’t likely to be a huge hit, and he expects there will be other shows to keep the arena busy next year.

“We work with Feld with a number of events and have several dates on hold,” he said.

Other Feld Entertainment shows already booked are “Disney on Ice: Frozen” in November and “Disney Live” in February 2016. Other events include EnduroCross and a concert with rock headliners Shinedown in October. The Silvertips season opener is Oct. 10.

Payne said the larger train-based touring circuses usually book their shows two years in advance. “As far as 2017, it’s too early to tell,” he said.

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

Ringling Bros. and Barnum &Bailey Circus

The circus is performing its final shows in Everett this weekend. Shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m., 3:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices range from $22-$72, plus fees when buying them online or on the phone. For more information, call 866.332.8499 or go to http://bit.ly/1RgOnhw.

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