The Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority made a $5.7 million profit on the arena and convention center last year and attributed the profit in part to the federal tax overhaul.
MECA, which manages the CHI Health Center and TD Ameritrade Park, released its 2017-18 financial report Tuesday. It covered the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Chief Financial Officer DeAnn Olsen said some premium seat holders — those who sit in suites and club seats — made several years’ worth of payments before Dec. 31, 2017, in order to avoid missing out on a tax deduction that was eliminated as part of the federal changes.
She said the changes were written for facilities affiliated with academic institutions in mind, but MECA falls into a gray area.
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MECA isn’t an academic institution, and the venues it operates are owned by the city. However, the venues host Creighton University athletics. And people who buy premium seats pay, in part, a “donation” that covers amenities like the guarantee to buy concert tickets and access to the Lexus Club lounge.
By comparison, Husker fans are required to donate money in exchange for the privilege of purchasing certain season tickets. Many paid early so that they could receive the seat-related deduction.
Overall, Olsen said, MECA had a “great year,” with profit up 14 percent at CHI Health Center and 38 percent at TD Ameritrade Park.
Not considering the impact from the tax changes, profit was up 2 percent at the arena and convention center, and up 16 percent at the ballpark. MECA reports profits before depreciation.
MECA brought in $45.5 million in revenue in 2017-18 from rent, food and beverage sales and other sources at the arena and convention center. It had about $39.8 million in expenses.
Among the expenses were labor — 79 full-time employees and 757 part-time employees as of June — and professional services fees in relation to the new contract to rename the arena and convention center.
MECA also paid for new metal detectors, updated surveillance technology and better parking garage lighting.
MECA President and CEO Roger Dixon said 2018 was a tough year for conventions, but the arena hosted 25 concerts, up from 18 the previous year. Visitors remained flat at about 1 million people at the CHI Health Center.
The ballpark’s financials are considered separately from CHI Health Center’s. The ballpark brought in $16 million in revenue in 2017-18. That was offset by about $8.8 million in expenses.
The College World Series and other events there brought MECA a $7.2 million profit. MECA’s portion of those profits are divided among several entities, including the city, NCAA and CWS. MECA gets a management fee.
Taxpayers, meanwhile, continue to pay off debt for both the venues, though stadium revenue helps with the ballpark.