Downtown arena nears one year; is it making goal?

Jim Host
Jim Host
Dennis Petrullo
Dennis Petrullo
Harold Workman (in foreground)
Harold Workman (in foreground)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It's been nearly a year since a crown jewel of downtown Louisville opened, luring some big names and big crowds. Now as the KFC Yum! Center prepares to celebrate one year, what's the bottom line on the $238 million investment?

Some may say the arena is blessed with luck; opening on 10-10-10. Crowds nearly broke down the door to get inside, as they rushed to get a look at the new community staple.

"The scenery is beautiful," one person said.

"It's state of the art," another said.

But coming up on one year later, what's the state of the arena's finances?

"Make sure we make our budget for the year of $1.2 million in operational profit," said Jim Host, the Arena Authority chairman.

Right now, that's coming up short, all at a time when the arena has been booming.

"Last weekend we had Sade followed by Katy Perry," an Arena Authority officer said.

Little monsters had a ball with Lady Gaga when she visited Louisville in March and performed to a sold out crowd.

"Right now we're the hotbed for the concert market. We've brought the Eagles and sold out. Justin Bieber and sold out," said Dennis Petrullo with AEG.

If it's a full-sized concert, meaning the upper and lower levels are used, the arena nets $70,000 in rent. On top of that, there is an activity fee that every ticket holder pays, plus a percentage of the concessions that comes back to the arena's bottom line.

"Full house concerts, you should expect to have a net income in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $225,000," said member Harold Workman.

But even with long lines for Elton John, the curtain is still falling short on the bottom line.

"We're roughly $200,000 off on a $1.2 million budget," Host said.

Despite that, arena leaders say they aren't worried, citing the fact that the fall UofL men's and women's basketball season is just about to get underway.

"62% of our revenue is directly related to UofL," Host said. "Without them being the anchor tenant of this facility we wouldn't have this facility."

Leaders say they want to make sure that the facility is being used wisely, so they'll spend $58,000 to have a consultant study arena operations. They say that money and the results, which will take roughly 45 days, will ensure the concerts, the games, and the crowds stay strong.

"The proof is that a number of buildings like this opened at a huge loss and we don't have a huge loss and at the end of the year we should be in the operational black as we budgeted," Host said.

Host says additional proof of the arena's success is how downtown Louisville has experienced a business boom since the arena opened.

The results of the study are expected at their December meeting.

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