Carnival Center suffers $610,000 loss in first three months
By Dan Dolan
Low ticket sales and high operating costs caused an unanticipated $610,000 loss for the first three months of business at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, executives said last week.
But center CEO Michael Hardy and Chief Financial Officer John Burnett said they're not ready to sound the fiscal alarm — or ask county government to increase its $3.75 million operating subsidy — because the $460 million cultural mecca is still teething.
"Clearly, we're running behind the budget plan prepared before the center opened in October," Mr. Hardy said. "We need another two months' data to accurately project where we'll be when our fiscal year ends in September."
The plan projected a $550,000 first-year deficit, even with county subsidies. It didn't include the $610,000 lost to date. But Mr. Burnett said the three-month shortfall can't be used to predict the rest of the year.
"We do anticipate a $550,000 loss, but we don't know if it will be larger," Mr. Burnett said. "If we reduce operating costs and improve ticket sales, we may eliminate the $610,000 deficit and make in-roads into the $550,000 shortfall."
Mr. Hardy said budget projections used an industry-standard $7.95-per-square-foot factor to figure operating costs. Actual expenses are running $14.40 per square foot, he said. Estimates for ticket sales at center-sponsored events, the largest cash cow, were based on an industry average 65% of seating capacity, he said.
October shows had a 26% sell-through. That climbed to 38% in November and to 52% by mid-December. Two events scheduled for next month have topped the 60% sales mark, said Mr. Burnett, who said income from facility rentals is 45% higher than projected and parking revenues are up $110,000.