Big crowds at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials and NCAA men’s basketball tournament helped CenturyLink Center Omaha turn a profit in a year that saw concert bookings plunge to an all-time low.
The 10-year-old facility stayed in the black in the fiscal year that ended June 30, bringing in a net profit of $1.19 million.
In a report released Friday, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority said the facility also saw an uptick in overall attendance, with more than 1.2 million people passing through the doors. A significant number of those guests attended the two marquee sports events, with 50,000 fans turning out for tournament basketball and 167,000 for swimming.
But the venue saw a sharp decline in musical acts, with just 12 concerts held during the year. That was down from 21 concerts in the 2010-11 fiscal year and a dramatic decline from the venue’s high of 31 concerts during the 2008-09 fiscal year.
MECA President and CEO Roger Dixon said the drop is largely due to a decline in the number of performers taking their shows on the road. He said his office has been working hard to book shows but found that many artists have no plans to pass through this area.
“It’s not just Omaha, it was pretty much across the country,” he said. “They’re not touring.”
Dixon said the Omaha Civic Auditorium Music Hall did have success as a venue for concerts, but the auditorium as a whole struggled. During the fiscal year, it had a net loss of $23,128. MECA says that loss will grow this year due in large part to the loss of the Omaha Lancers hockey team and the Omaha Beef indoor football team to the Ralston Arena.
The City of Omaha plans to close the Civic in 2014.
Meanwhile, Dixon said MECA is pushing to expand its convention business. He said there have been some notable successes, such as the Deere and Co. international convention, which hosted about 14,000 people in July and August.
MECA spent $3.7 million on upgrades to the CenturyLink Center during the fiscal year, including replacing the telephone and network systems and updating equipment at concession stands.
Officials said the current fiscal year looks to be a stronger one in the concert business, with projections of more than 20 shows.
Big names like Taylor Swift, Maroon 5 and Carrie Underwood are expected to sell out. And the recently announced show by pop star Justin Bieber is generating plenty of activity at the MECA offices. On Thursday, pre-sale tickets sold out hours earlier than expected.
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