Convention Center revenues nearing pre-pandemic level

Mar. 16—The Owensboro Convention Center and the Owensboro Sportscenter are on track to meet or exceed revenue goals for the year, the center’s general manager told Owensboro city commissioners Tuesday night.

The message from general manager Jamie Scheffer was that convention center and Sportscenter operations are returning largely to normal after events were disrupted and canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, we were decimated by the pandemic,” Scheffer said. This year, however, “we are seeing record-breaking rebound, with financials and events coming back. It’s almost a return back to pre-pandemic levels.”

For the year, convention center revenues are about $235,000 above projections, while revenue at the Sportscenter is $41,175 above projections, Scheffer said.

“Right now, we are forecasting at both buildings to beat budget by $443,000,” he said.

Scheffer said the facilities are projected to host 278 events this year, with attendance exceeding 150,000 visitors. For the fiscal year that started last July, Spectra Venue Management was able to hold onto conventions and events that had booked prior to the pandemic.

Getting those events to return this fiscal year “was critical to our success,” Scheffer said.

The Sportscenter has done well with country concerts and sports events like the 3rd Region basketball tournaments, Scheffer said. Five basketball tournaments are booked at the Sportscenter this year, he said.

Dave Anderson, regional vice president for Spectra, said the staff fills spaces in the convention center and Sportscenter calendar with self-promoted events, such as the Kraftucky Arts and Crafts Show. This year, the convention center and Sportscenter hosted 35 self-promoted events, which produced $276,000 in revenue.

“Owensboro is the poster child of self-promoted events,” Anderson said. “Owensboro is the No. 1 (site) in producing self-produced events” of all the sites Spectra manages.

For the 2022-23 fiscal year, “we already have 10 different conventions” booked, Scheffer said. “We are talking with seven or eight more.”

The convention center has a sports floor it puts down for indoor sporting events. Scheffer said the potential is there to have a sport floor in three of the rooms, which would help attract larger tournaments.

Concert promoters tend to want to use the Sportscenter, because the production cost to set up a show there is lower than at the convention center. The convention center exhibit halls were designed with concerts in mind, but drapery would be installed to improve acoustics, Anderson said.

Owensboro’s convention center is doing better at pulling in events than other Spectra facilities, Anderson said.

“Most of our buildings are running at 80 to 90%” of the events they held in 2019, Anderson said. “Owensboro is going to run at 100%.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse