EVERETT — Snohomish County officials made a showy affair of handing over an oversized check to Xfinity Arena to help pay for a new scoreboard.
The $250,000 contribution will go a good way toward covering the expense of the scoreboard, which features four 11-foot-by-14-foot LED screens and two wrap-around ring screens above and below it.
In a small reception in the arena’s Octane Lounge, Snohomish County Council Chairman Terry Ryan highlighted the facility’s regional appeal.
“This stadium means so much to our area, it’s much bigger than Everett,” Ryan said.
The total cost of the scoreboard is somewhere around $800,000, much of which was covered by a $665,000 loan from the city of Everett last year.
The check announcement came at a time when operations at the arena earned a profit in 2015. That’s the first time since 2010 the arena has operated in the black.
The finances for 2015 are still being finalized, said Rick Comeau, general manager of the arena, but he said the unaudited figure is a profit of $133,345.
That’s well above the $30,951 arena officials estimated at this time last year
Three things happened in 2015 to significantly boost the bottom line, Comeau said. One was the Everett Silvertips made it into the second round of playoffs in the spring. Another was WWE Monday Night Raw in August, which hadn’t been booked until later in the year.
The big deal was the end-of-the-year multiple day run of “Disney on Ice: Frozen,” which drew hordes of little girls in Elsa costumes.
“It was the biggest event in this building’s history,” Comeau said.
This year, the arena is already gearing up for the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships, which will take over the arena April 8-10.
Spectra Venue Management, the company under contract to manage the facility, also this week booked the Taste of Chaos post-hardcore heavy metal touring show for Saturday, July 9, and is expected to announce another big-name touring act soon.
“One of the reasons we did this was to attract more big bands to Everett,” Comeau said.
It has been a challenge. The recession hollowed out the concert industry, and it’s only now that guests are starting to spend on arena events again.
“I think we suffered a bit during the downtown, and other than coming for hockey, they kind of forgot about the events center,” said Gary Weikel, president of the Everett Public Facilities District, the special taxing entity that owns and operates the arena as well as the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center and the municipal ice rink.
“Part of it was we didn’t have big names coming, and part of it is that people didn’t have money,” Weikel said.
The facilities district issued $71.5 million in bonds to build the civic arena complex in 2003. Everett pays the district $500,000 each year to help service the debt.
“Almost all of our infrastructure is getting to the age at which it’s needing to be replaced,” Weikel said.
Xfinity Arena’s 20-year facilities plan itemizes the facility’s capital needs at anywhere from $200,000 to $1.5 million per year.
The audio-visual system was a major upgrade, but necessary to draw in big shows, Comeau said. The Gymnastics Championships, which were last in Everett in 2012, specifically told them they wouldn’t be back unless the facility upgraded its scoreboard system or offered them a much reduced rental rate.
The larger screens and the upgrades to the control room that are still in progress now allow for multiple replay angles for hockey games and bigger pictures for graduation ceremonies.
A grant of about $53,000 from the Snohomish County Public Utility District allowed the arena to replace 86 aging metal halide lamps with 46 more energy-efficient LEDs that put out just as much light with a lot less heat.
The arena also upgraded all its sales terminals for concessions in February, which cost $116,708, Comeau said.
The benefit is that all 56 sales terminals now accept debit and credit cards, whereas beforehand mobile concessions were cash-only, and some of the credit card terminals didn’t always work.
Because of the age of the old payment system, it wasn’t up to the industry standards for data security and technical support was no longer available.
The hope is that with more big-name events, the current trend of rising revenue eventually will bring the entire operation into profitability and even pay off the debts.
“Slowly we’re getting back to making money,” Weikel said.