By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. officials are trumpeting an economic turnaround the operations have made two years after a financial meltdown resulted in firings, and the transformation of the organization’s board members.
HECFI is scheduled to have a $425,000 deficit by the end of 2012 once the final numbers for December are calculated, said John Hertel, chief executive officer.
“We are getting back to quote, unquote, normal to the 2009 actual numbers,” said Hertel.
The city also contributes about $2.8 million in an annual operating subsidy for the operations, on top of the yearly deficit, which doesn’t vary too much over the years. But in 2010 the deficit reached $2 million because of the economic downturn in theUnited States. The impact was felt at HECFI with cancelled shows, and lost revenue, forcing the city by the end of the year to cover the unexpected loss.
Both Global Spectrum and Carmen’s have promised to reduce the city’s subsidy to HECFI over the next five years of their contract with the city.
The shocking loss forced councillors to institute changes at HECFI, such as appointing a new board of directors, and launching a request for proposals for a private company to operate Copps Coliseum, Hamilton Place, and the Hamilton Convention Centre. Carmen’s was selected last fall to operate the Convention Centre, while Global Spectrum will be overseeing Hamilton Place and Copps. It is expected the new operators could take over the facilities as early as March, from the initial April 1 date.
The city has established an $1.8 million budget for severance payments that are expected to be made when the private operators take over. Hertel said there is no idea how many of the 52 full-time employees will remain once the change in operators happens.
“It’s a very challenging time,” he said.
Hertel made HECFI’s financial presentation to Mayor Bob Bratina, and Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge, Jan. 7, at what was supposed to be an official HECFI’s monthly board meeting. Because there was no quorum Bratina said the board meeting became an information session. With not enough members present, councillors were unable to vote, or made decisions.
The other board members, Jason Farr, Chad Collins, and Sam Merulla, had already issued their regrets for missing the meeting.