Stroh Center to exceed allocated budget

Reporter and Reporter

The Stroh Center is expected to exceed its allocated budget for its first fiscal year, but administrators project its financial woes to be short-lived.

The overall annual budget for the Stroh Center is $2.4 million, $1.7 million of which is allocated to paying down debts during a 30-year period., said University Athletics Director Greg Christopher.

The Stroh is projected to exceed that budget at the end of its fiscal year on July 30 by about $400,000, but Christopher said this was expected and not a cause for concern.

“I don’t think any of us at the University expected to break even in year one,” he said. “The primary reason we are going to run a deficit this year is because of first-time start-up costs. … We also fully expect to break even in year two or year three.”

Included in these start-up costs, Associate Athletics Director Jim Elsasser said there are items such as floor covering materials, cleaning supplies, ladders and other miscellaneous expenses necessary for the operation and management of the facility. Underestimates in utility expenses and salaries of staff also contributed.

Events hosted this year have had varying degrees of success. Three concerts have been in the Stroh so far, and while one was financially successful, the other two put the facility in the red. Elsasser said the Sanctus Real performance brought in more than $40,000 in profits, while Kenny Rogers and Switchfoot each brought financial losses of between $30,000 and $40,000. Determining which concerts to host and how to manage them, he said, will be learned with time.

“That’s the process of working out ‘what’s your market, what’s the genre that this clientele is interested in seeing?’” Elsasser said. “And then it’s ‘can you sell it?”

To assist in event planning, the University works with national venue-management company, Global Spectrum, as well as an events committee consisting of Stroh staff, student government and community members, among others. The group meets once monthly to brainstorm ideas and offer suggestions.

Sitting on the committee is Emily Ancinec, president of Undergraduate Student Government. In response to questions provided by email, Ancinec wrote that factors the committee considers when proposing events include time of year, style of event and the event’s target audience.

“I feel that the Stroh Center has the potential to have great programs,” she wrote. “We have not necessarily used that potential to the fullest.”

Elsasser said the Athletics Department would like to increase the number of what he called “no-risk events” the Stroh Center hosts, such as the Harlem Globetrotters game and NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Under these events the Stroh is rented to outside parties that incur all costs associated with hosting the event; revenues for the University come in through not only the rental fee, but also vending, parking and commissions on merchandise sales. The NCAA tournament alone brought in $40,000 in profits.

“Those are the events we are trying to find,” Elsasser said. “Those are the events that will make the building successful.”

Elsasser said the real value of these events, though, is the qualitative externalities of the exposure.

“You can’t put a value on the marketing portion of that, and I think that’s sometimes what people forget,” he said. “The Stroh Center’s name really came to light when the three games that were on there said, ‘Hey this is ESPN, we’re at the Stroh Center.’ What’s the value of that when a million people are watching?”

Financial comparisons between the Stroh Center and its predecessor, Anderson Arena, Elsasser said, are difficult because Anderson’s finances were absorbed into the general University budget and were not handled directly by the Athletics Department, as is the case with the Stroh. Some of the events Stroh has hosted so far, though, according to Christopher, were possible only because of the Stroh. Anderson’s failure to meet modern codes and logistical considerations of handling events of a magnitude like the NCAA tournament, would bar the University from being considered as host.

“Those games would never have come to Bowling Green if it wasn’t for a facility like the Stroh Center,” Christopher said. “What we said even before we built the Stroh Center, and it has played out, is that now that we have the Stroh Center, a more modern facility, we have access to a lot more as far as programming options,”

Perhaps as important as the broadened options the Stroh has made available, Christopher said, is the enhanced experience the facility offers fans.

“I think the fan experience has definitely been more positive,” he said. “As a general statement I would say our fans have been more positively influenced by moving into the Stroh Center than even our student athletes and coaches.”