By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facility Inc. is expected to fall short of its 2012 budget projections by up to $425,000.
John Hertel, chief executive officer for HECFI, told the board recently, part of the problem was the loss this year of a number of shows that had been scheduled to play in 2012, such as Carrie Underwood, and Leonard Cohen, but instead they have been postponed until the new year. In addition, the Cirque Michael Jackson show fizzled, the annual Nutcracker show was cancelled and there were no Hamilton Bulldog playoffs in 2012 to boost the bottom line. It cost HECFI about $400,000, he said. And Hertel said the November and December ticket sales for shows continues to remain “soft.”
He added that the hospitality side of the business also remains “slow,” while bookings for next year are looking bright.
So far shows forHamilton Placein 2013 is lagging behind 2011 and 2012, but Hamilton Place and Copps Coliseum are ahead of last year’s pace, and have shows booked for most of next year, with more to come, said Hertel.
“We have good solid bookings,” said Hertel.
Hertel also pointed to the uncertainty of HECFI’s future this year as contributing to the financial issues. He said there was some “hesitancy” from clients to commit to HECFI as the city was undergoing its request for proposal process. Eventually, politicians selected Global Spectrum/Live Nation to take over the operation of Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place. It then tapped the Mercanti Group to oversee the Hamilton Convention Centre.
“It was a bit of a distraction,” said Hertel.
It’s expected the city and the Mercanti Group will sign an agreement by mid-January for the local company to oversee the place. The Mercanti Group has already asked city officials if it can begin investing another half million dollars in capital upgrades to the convention centre. The Mercanti Group, as part of its winning bid, had already proposed to spend $250,000 in infrastructure upgrades.
Negotiations between the city and Global Spectrum is continuing, say city officials, with the final agreement not expected until later next year.
Hertel said Global Spectrum representatives have already met with HECFI’s union and non-union full-time employees.
Upgrades to the Convention Centre and Hamilton Place are moving forward, said Hertel, and they will be completed under budget. Although it seems like forever that work has been ongoing on the exterior ofHamilton Place, as the metal roof was replaced, the walls power washed, then sealed, it will be completed soon, he said.
In addition, the four Chedoke ballrooms and the Copps doors will be upgraded.
HECFI had asked the city for a $3.2 million subsidy contribution for 2012 earlier this year. The city also provided HECFI with $7.7 million in funding, slightly higher than in 2011 when it was $7.2 million. The city’s subsidy was about $3.5 million in 2011.
But it was the disastrous 2010 financial downturn that forced the city to bail out HECFI for about $11.65 million, the largest funding commitment for the municipality ever. It resulted in council firing the chief executive office, and dissolving the HECFI board.
HECFI officials were promising to reduce the city’s subsidy over the next few years, starting in 2013 with a contribution of just over $2 million, followed by in 2014 with a subsidy of about $2 million.
Hertel remains confident HECFI can get back to the 2009 budget levels.
“We are ready to take it to the next level of success,” said Hertel.