The Branson Convention Center, an entity directly tied to the city of Branson, has requested additional money to cover operations through the end of the year.
According to the staff report presented at the Board of Aldermen meeting on Sept. 8, due to a decrease in revenues, they are requesting an additional $354,437.
“It’s been an extremely bad year, obviously, with COVID, an unprecedented year,” said the new Branson Convention Center General Manager Sam Voisin. “That’s what precipitated this funds request and additional funds request in the past. Our business has been depleted by over 50% of revenue from cancellations or reduced spending. That’s a huge economic impact to the city of Branson and the surrounding businesses. From October through the rest of the year, these funds were needed to continue to operate the Convention Center so that we have 43 more event days to execute, including the Crappie Expo and a lot of other notable events.
“We’ve gotten with the chamber to do a little bit of a research study from October to December on economic impact, and we’re right at $15 million at economic impact, which is huge for 43 event days. So, we have a really good mix. However, it does cost money to run the Convention Center from the HVAC, utilities, etc, you’re talking over $150 per hour in some cases, depending on the weather outside. So, these funds are requested so that we can continue operations to satisfy our commitments for those 43 event days and levy that economic impact.”
If this item is passed on its final reading, $129,262 will be moved from the Branson Convention Center - City Held reserve fund to the Branson Convention Center operating fund. The additional $225,175 will be transferred from the city of Branson General Fund.
In regards to the cash reserve fund for the Convention Center, city Finance Director Jamie Rouch shared some background information for understanding at the meeting.
“We had an additional cash reserve in that Convention Center Fund from when the switching over of the management happened and so we put that amount in a cash reserve fund,” said Rouch. “We moved $75,000 of it earlier this year for use, and this is the additional $129,000. So we used the rest of that so that it wouldn’t have as much of an impact on the General Fund.”
Voisin later goes on to explain how, even though the Branson Convention Center is asking for money, in regards to other convention centers, “Branson is doing much better than most.”
“I’ve actually done a regional comparison of venues of similar size, and our competitive set and Branson is far and above, beyond doing much better than those,” said Voisin. “Most of these buildings have full cancellations, 100% cancellations due to their state requirements. Some have capacity limitations like Louisiana, right now you can only have 25% capacity in Louisiana in any building. That might move up to 50% but obviously that’s an impact on business. If you were to compare it to New Orleans right now, New Orleans is completely shut down for conventions, they have zero economic impact and that’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars that COVID has cost the meetings and convention industry so far.”
After a question from Alderwoman Julia King regarding possible ramifications if this item were not passed, Voisin gave some examples.
“If the board decides not to fund the remainder of the year, we’re looking at a loss of $15 million in economic impact and that is a direct and indirect type of impact, where jobs are lost, taxes not abated and so on and so forth,” said Voisin. “That’s direct sales taxes that go to the city as well as divided up to counties and state, that will not be realized.
“You have a 44% return on this funds request for economic impact. It’s $354,000 in exchange for $15 million of impact outside of that ledger. We all know convention centers make money, they print money for other people but unfortunately not for itself. So, that machine would come to a grinding halt, there may be some legal ramifications with events not being able to be held and so on and so forth.”
According to a city spokesperson, “the Convention Center has received $335,000 for General Operations and $122,796 for Marketing Reimbursement so far this year.”
This item was approved on a 6-0 vote by the aldermen.
The currently scheduled date for the final reading of this item is at the next scheduled board of aldermen meeting on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.
Visit the ‘Agenda Center’ at bransonmo.gov for the complete agenda item.