On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 the city council had only one item on its workshop agenda…the performance of its Civic Center. The Civic Center opened in 1999 and is now 17 years old. It is a beautiful building. Former Mayor Scruggs wanted it and sold it under the guise of becoming a destination location in downtown Glendale. Has this facility performed up to its expectations? Let’s take a look.

City personnel made their Tuesday presentation based on figures for the last 5 years of the Civic Center’s operation. I have taken staff’s 5 year average and derived estimates that reflect the entire 17 years of its operation. My figures could be a little too high or a little too low as I did not look up the figures in 17 years of budget books. Hence the estimated were arrived at by multiplying the average annual figures times 17 years.

Over the 17 year life of the facility the General Fund Budget allocation was an estimated $11,422,000.00 and there had been an additional General Fund Subsidy over those 17 years of another $4,400,000. The 17 year total of budget allocations and subsidies is an estimated $15,822,000 or an average of $930,000.00 per year. Not included in this amount are the costs of maintenance and repair that have been expended over the 17 year period as staff did not provide any figures relative to this expense.

What kind of revenue does the Civic Center generate to offset its expenses? Over 17 years an estimated $850,000 had been earned from the catering contract and during the same period the Civic Center had earned an additional $6,800,000.  The total estimated revenues over the 17 year period is approximately $7,650,000.

The Civic Center had earned an estimated $7,650,000 over its life span and had cost the city an estimated $15,822,000. It has cost the city an estimated $8,172,000 to keep the doors of the Civic Center open for the past 17 years.

According to the staff presentation over the last 5 years the Civic Center had drawn an annual average of 51,888 patrons or for the past 17 years an estimated total of 882,096 patrons. That averages about 141 patrons per day. However, there are days when the Civic Center has no business and days when it is booked for large gatherings. It should be mentioned that the Center has very little, if any business, in December due to Glendale Glitters. There simply is not enough parking during that period for Civic Center patrons and over the years patrons have not wanted to deal with the traffic generated by Glendale Glitters.

Has this facility fulfilled its promise? Everyone, even staff, says no.  In their presentation staff offered a plan with a new growth goal of an increase of 5% in patronage per year. Since the average annual patronage is 51,888 patrons, their goal is to increase that number by 2, 594 additional patrons this year. They believe they can accomplish that goal because new funding has been allocated to market the Center; there will be enhanced collaboration with the Glendale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; their absorption into a new department will create new synergy; and there will be an enhanced building maintenance and repair fund. Staff has also asked for authorization for up to 6 community events at no charge; consideration of rental fee adjustments as part of the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget; and the flexibility to negotiate rental fee packages.

Will all of this work? Everyone hopes so. The jury is still out. City council is willing to give the Center more time.  Staff’s first annual performance report is due in a year. Make no mistake. Challenges remain. Not having a major hotel nearby as well as inadequate parking space during downtown events will have to be overcome, if possible. Add to this equation the Convention Center space owned by the city and managed by the Renaissance Hotel at Westgate is a direct competitor for the same business.

If staff cannot turn the Civic Center around then it may be time for council to consider whether it will ever meet its purpose financially and philosophically. Perhaps repurposing will become its fate. It was originally designed to be a draw for downtown Glendale. A true destination place is exactly what downtown Glendale desperately needs to become more robust and to grow to its potential.

© Joyce Clark, 2016          


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