The Ford Center: Pain or Gain?

The new arena has been a controversial topic since officials decided to replace Roberts Stadium. Now, with the Ford Center ready to open, critics and supporters will be watching to see how the new arena performs.

It's not uncommon for arenas to run a deficit. In fact, many NFL stadiums operate in the red by millions of dollars every year. City officials are just hopeful the Ford Center breaks even.

If you say you're at the main gate in downtown Evansville, you might be asked if your outside the Ford Center or the restaurant.

Manager of Main Gate Sports Bar Blake Billman says, "When we heard an arena was coming in we really thought it'd be a hot spot for people to hang out."

Main Gate is one of several businesses that have opened in anticipation of the crowds.

The new arena is expected to bring nearly a half million people downtown each year. With Bob Seger, Reba, and more, the Ford Center will need to bring in $5 million a year to stay on budget.

How likely is the arena to say in the black? To find the answer, we tour the country to look at similar arenas in similar sized cities.

Our first stop is the Columbus Civic Center in Georgia. It holds ice, sporting events, and concerts, and Reba will even be making a stop here too. Last year, this arena lost $165,000.

Our next visit is to North Little Rock Arkansas. The Verizon arena here has seen its ups and downs, losing as much as $600,000 one year.

From there we go to the Quad Cities. Officials in Moline, Illinois say they had success with their stadium, but one year it too lost money.

So why are some arenas more successful than others? Tenants help, the Ford Center has two - Evanville IceMen and U of E basketball.

Sponsorship helps off-sets costs, and that's expected to bring in more than a million dollars to the Ford Center's floor this year.

However, a lot comes down to concerts. Some acts like Lady Gaga cost more than $1 million to bring to town.

Managers say if they bring the wrong act, it hurts.

Scott Schoenike with VenuWorks says, "If you a lag in tickets they start to look at other markets and it gets even harder to get concerts."

While that could be the pains, there's a lot to gain. City officials say there are ways the arena will be a slamdunk.

CVB Executive Director Bob Warren says, "It's going to help us launch downtown, downtown needs shops, boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and clothes."

Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel says, "Once people get a feel for all the great things that are going to happen here and are actually already happening here, they are going to want to be here."

Only time will tell if the $127 million Ford Center meets its goal.

If the arena runs a deficit, around $3 million of downtown TIF money can be used to offset the loss, but then that money will not be able to be used for other downtown projects.

If the arena turns a profit, a rainy day fund could be set up, or prices could be adjusted. The operating budget does not affect debt payments on the Ford Center.

To see a list of Q & A's click the story below.

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