Despite a slight decrease in total attendance, the Memorial Coliseum is expected to show a modest operating surplus for 2012 and a dramatic increase in its economic impact on the community.
According to General Manager Randy Brown, about 1.13 million people attended events at the coliseum last year, or about 0.41 percent fewer than in 2011. The number of “use days,” or one use of one space, also decreased, from 1,405 in 2011 to 1,263. Preliminary estimates indicate the facility to end the year about $40,000 in the black.
But the coliseum's estimated impact on the area economy soared, he added – from $99 million in 2011 to more than $116 million in 2012. “That's because of our mix of events,” Brown explained – events such as the national Gold Wing motorcycle convention that attracted large numbers of out-of-town guests who spent money at restaurants, motels and elsewhere. The Gold Wing event alone attracts about 10,000 visitors.
Despite the modest drop in attendance, Brown said 2012 compared favorably to most other recent years, besting attendance and use-day figures for both 2009 and 2010. Nine concerts have been confirmed for this year compared to 13 for all of 2012, indicating the potential for a record year, he added.
The building is also scheduled to receive some significant upgrades in the coming year, including modernization of its 60-year-old restrooms and installation of large food courts above its two original entrances on Parnell Avenue and Coliseum Boulevard. The Expo Hall is scheduled for expansion in 2014.
Brown said the coliseum's success contrasts with losses at many arenas and convention centers, including Fort Wayne's Grand Wayne Center.
“We're pro-active (looking for events),” he said. “We don't wait for the phone to ring.”