AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Civic Center is still operating at a net loss without a proposed renovation and expansion project after a lawsuit blocked the funding mechanism.

After the May election, Amarillo will have a new mayor and new members on the City Council, which could see a shift in priorities.

In order to keep the Amarillo Civic Center functional, Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said the money to subsidize the cost of maintenance operations will continue to come from hotel occupancy tax (HOT) revenue.

“The subsidy, the amount that is not covered by operating revenues, is about 1.5 million to $2 million a year,” said Miller. “That’s going to, and has been shown to, be an ever slightly increasing number year over year, just as maintenance becomes more and more expensive as parts of the facility age.”

According to COA Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Laura Storrs, a total of $4.3 million was approved for Civic Center operations, maintenance and repairs for the fiscal year 2022-23. Storrs also said for the 2022-23 fiscal year, the HOT revenue subsidy to cover the net loss of Civic Center operations is estimated to be $1.7 million.

Storrs said Civic Center operations, maintenance, and capital projects are funded first by the operating revenues that the Civic Center generates and the net difference is covered by HOT revenue. She said those are the only revenue sources currently funding the Civic Center.

When asked what they will focus on in the short term, Bo Fowlkes, the general manager of the Amarillo Civic Center, said, “Continued upkeep and maintenance, dealing with the failures and so on that we have the sewer line and things of that nature. We’re constantly doing some upgrades.”

Fowlkes specified that there will be lighting upgrades in the exhibit halls and upgrades and modifications to restrooms around the coliseum.

According to Miller, revenue is directly tied to the size and number of events they attract to the Civic Center.

“It’s a functional building that is bringing in lots of good events right now. It’s not as competitive for some events but we’re aware of that and we’re working to compensate for that,” Miller said. “We’re going to work very aggressively to do a good job selling, in sales to bring in events that can use our facility.”

Fowlkes said they have their usual slate of events lined up for 2023, including:

  • Trade shows
  • Gun shows
  • Peddler shows
  • Banquets
  • Receptions

Plus, he said they have booked several new events for this year.

“We’ve got Disney on Ice coming back for the first time since 2016. They put on seven performances in the Coliseum. Jehovah’s Witness events will be coming back to us, both their summer conventions and their circuit assemblies,” said Fowlkes. “We’ve got a lot of Latin concerts that are calling in booking space with us, and so on.”

He continued, “The touring shows are contacting us and we continue trying to work with them and bring in new and different types of entertainment.”

Folkes also said the new, 60,000 sq. ft. indoor-outdoor pavilion by the Santa Fe Depot will go online this summer.

Amarillo Place One City Councilmember Cole Stanley, said, “The council really strove this last year to put up that pavilion and really try to accommodate them and so we do a good job of taking care of our customers down there, and I don’t think we’re going to lose any customers.”

However, Fowlkes said the Civic Center has lost some events without the proposed renovation project, including high school graduations and more.

“WRCA booked for 2023 but their future is still uncertain down the road,” said Fowlkes. “So we’ll just have to wait and see what their board decides.”

Stanley said while some parts of the facility are outdated, the Civic Center is structurally sound.

“There’s not a great sense of urgency here and it comes down to the fact that a new council really needs to do whatever the citizens want,” said Stanley. “So we have to listen to our citizens and be able to work with what they give us.”

Stanley voted against debt issuances passed by the City Council to fund the proposed Civic Center project in 2021 after Amarillo voters struck down a $275 million bond proposal in 2020 for renovations.

“If they give us a budget of $250 million to go build something new, then we can do a great job with that. If they don’t, and they say, ‘Work within what you have in funding and taxes,’ then we still have opportunities to do updates and take care of an asset and that building doesn’t necessarily fall into the liability category. It can stay in the asset category if we will just do our job on a year-to-year basis.”

Stanley said he would like to see the Civic Center become self-sufficient in revenue.

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