Covelli Centre, Packard Take Financial Hits from Virus

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Cancellations forced by the novel coronavirus outbreak are taking their toll on Covelli Centre downtown, as well as Packard Music Hall in Warren.

One major cancellation is the Ohio Grade School Wrestling Championships, which were scheduled for March 21-22 and 28-29 at Covelli. The two-weekend tournament fills the arena all four days, says Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management, which operates the arena.

“It doesn’t [get noticed] like a big sexy concert, but it is a huge financial loss,” Ryan says. “We get 10,000 people through the doors both weekends, and our food and beverage sales do well, too. Also, the area’s hotels are filled and restaurants get business from it.”

The annual Ohio Athletic Committee wrestling championships have taken place at Covelli Centre for several years. “It’s a nonrisky event, a rental [of the arena],” Ryan says.

A different kind of wrestling show – the WWE – that was to take place March 15 was also canceled. 

“That was nearly sold out and there will be no rescheduling,” Ryan says.

The financial impact has been just as hard at Packard hall. Several dance competitions have been canceled and more cancellations are likely to come. Almost every weekend in April and May is booked at Packard. The next event scheduled at Packard is the April 9 concert by country artist Jamey Johnson, followed by Trace Adkins April 16.

“Both of those concerts are selling well,” Ryan says, noting that he expects to know soon whether they will join the list of cancellations.

At Covelli, all remaining Youngstown Phantoms hockey games have been canceled. The next concert on the schedule is Volbeat on May 5.

Ryan’s companies, JAC Management and JAC Live, an event promoter, employ seven. Workers are being kept busy dealing with the cancellations, but Ryan says staffing might have to be re-evaluated if the shutdown drags on.

JAC Management also provides occasional part-time employment to a pool of about 400 people. Anywhere from 40 to 60 are hired to work at events in a variety of positions. 

On a bright note, ticket sales got off to a strong start March 13 for the June 13 Luke Bryan concert at Stambaugh Stadium, which JAC Live is promoting.

“I was very pleased with the on-sale day numbers and where we are at now,” Ryan says. “I think it’s because consumers are confident that in the event of a cancellation, they’d get a refund. They know we are a bona fide company that does business the right way. There is never an issue with refunds, and the Ticketmaster refund policy is ironclad.”  

Globally, the concert industry is in uncharted territory and dealing with it day by day.

“I’ve been talking to people in the industry,” Ryan says. “I’ve been on 15 different conference calls on how to address [the shutdown]. When the governor says no public events, these are unprecedented times and we are doing everything we can to minimize the financial impact. It’s significant, but we are not in this boat alone.”

Local performing arts groups and venues in the Mahoning Valley might have a tougher time weathering the storm.

Easy Street Productions had to postpone its March 27-29 production of “Nunsense” at Ford Family Recital Hall. Todd Hancock, co-director of the company, fears he will also be forced to postpone the much bigger production of “Beauty and the Beast” May 2-3 at Powers Auditorium.

“Nunsense” could easily be switched to dates in the summer that Hancock has already booked for his company, but “Beauty” will take more of an effort.

“It’s not very often that you have two hit shows lined up back to back, and we have that right now,” Hancock says.

Easy Street has between $70,000 and $90,000 tied up in “Beauty” and about $40,000 in “Nunsense.”

Also in jeopardy are theater classes, taught by Easy Street co-director Maureen Collins. 

To make up for any lost revenues, Hancock says might put together a musical revue this summer culled from past Easy Street shows.

At the Youngstown Playhouse, the upcoming mainstage musical “The Light in the Piazza” (May 1-10) has already been canceled, and two youth shows, “The Gone Away Place” (March 27-29) and “The Story of My Life” ( June 5-14) have been postponed.

James McClellan, operations manager of the Playhouse, says he is considering taping a performance of “The Gone Away Place,” which was written by Christopher Barzak of Youngstown, and screening it as a way to raise money.

The theater will be dark for most of the summer until the 2020-2021 season begins in September, but McClellan is also trying to come up with a summer musical to bring in revenue.

The Playhouse does not sell season subscriptions, offering only flex passes that include six tickets that can be used in any way. Tickets that were to be used for the postponed or canceled shows will be honored next season.

“We’ll just change the expiration date on the flex passes,” McClellan says.

If the mandatory theater shutdown continues for several months, McClellan says the Playhouse would consider an online performance that would be live streamed as a fundraiser.

“I think theaters, and nonprofits, are the most vulnerable,” he says. “We’re going to feel it. We’ll be good for another month but I worry if it goes past that.

“Maybe the internet will be our savior, since we can’t do anything in front of people. There might be an audience for it. We have givers in the area and they know the arts are the most vulnerable.”

At Stambaugh Auditorium, attempts are being made to reschedule as many events as possible.

“We ask for patience as the process of rescheduling will take some time,” reads a statement from the venue.

The statement asks ticketholders to hang on to their tickets, as they will be honored if the event is rescheduled.

“Ticket-holders will be notified by email as information becomes available,” the statement reads, adding that refunds will only be issued for events that are not eventually rescheduled.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.