Economic Development

Amphitheater Not Meant as Profit Center, Officials Say

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown officials envision the proposed amphitheater/riverfront park project as a quality-of-life enhancement rather than a major revenue generator for the city.

Citizens who attended last week’s meeting regarding a federal loan the city plans to take related to the $9 million project asked questions regarding revenue projections for the amphitheater.

“We are going to have enterprise commercial activities at the amphitheater and we think we’ll do fine on those events similar to those we may have at the Covelli Centre, but this is going to be more community oriented,” Finance Director David Bozanich said Monday, although he declined to offer specific revenue projections.

“This is a community park with an amphitheater in it,” Bozanich said. “We don’t run a financial calculus on our park activities.”

The commercial booking of shows and associated food and beverage sales – or “enterprise activity” — is a “relatively small” component of the two aspects envisioned for the park and is not a “profit center,” Bozanich said.

“The overwhelming majority of the moneys being spent are for park-like activities,” he added.

Construction of the amphitheater likely would represent about $1 million of the $9 million budget, according to Bozanich. Costs associated with the overall project include replacement of an antique 84-inch sewer line and landscaping to improve the appearance of a major gateway into downtown.

“The amphitheater is getting most of the coverage but cleaning and greening the land are the important aspect of this,” Mayor John McNally affirmed. Addressing the property on both sides of the Market Street Bridge is important to continue downtown’s momentum, he said.

The riverfront park is a “cultural facility that will have long-term positive and economic impacts” on the city and “will produce a quality-of-life enhancement for the Youngstown community as a whole,” Bozanich said.

Following the success in recent years of the city-owned Covelli Centre, the amphitheater would attract touring acts that prefer outdoor venues during the summer months.

At last week’s meeting, the Covelli Centre’s executive director, Eric Ryan, who has informally consulted with the city on the project, predicted the amphitheater could host as many as 80 concert-type and community events each season.

“We have a pretty good track record now with Covelli. We’ve straightened out our original problems and we continue to make money every year with it, but Covelli is not a park,” Bozanich said.

The city-owned arena, which began operations in 2005, costs $5,000 just to open the doors for an event. “This facility, we can open the doors for a couple hundred bucks,” he remarked.

The amphitheater will be able to accommodate 3,500 people for an event or smaller groups of 150 – for church groups, neighborhood functions or family reunions, for example – who might use the stage as part of their function, McNally said. Profit-and-loss discussions “really put the cart way before the horse,” he added.

City officials continue to hold discussions with organizations and individuals regarding sponsorships such as naming rights agreements, conversations the finance director characterizes as “positive.” He anticipates announcements in the next two months.

“We’ve got a couple different directions we’re moving in with various folks,” Bozanich said.

Officials had good meetings last week with parties that are “very interested in long-term partnership and sponsorship opportunities,” McNally said.

“We’re going to spend the next three weeks or so trying to nail down what we would like to see in terms of sponsorship opportunities,” the mayor said. The individuals and organizations officials met with last week said when the city is ready, they are “more than willing to talk specifics,” he noted.

Pictured: Project rendering provided by city.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.