Arena, Heat loss estimated at $3.25 million for 2011

The Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre lost about $3.25 million in 2011. The Abbotsford Heat were responsible for $1.1 million.

An anticipated loss of $3.25 million for the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) in 2011 has city council asking for answers.

The figure, which includes an estimated payment of $1.1 million to the Abbotsford Heat hockey team under its guaranteed revenue contract, is preliminary and will not be finalized until the city completes an audit of its financial records at the end of the month. The final Heat figures will not be known until at least July, when the squad’s fiscal year comes to an end.

The arena/Heat had a combined loss of $3.4 million in 2010.

The slight decrease in the deficit has staff budgeting for a $2.97 million deficit for 2012. Estimates have the Heat losing $900,000 in their next season.

Coun. John Smith said it’s time to put an end to the “financial hemorrhaging” of the centre.

“Obviously it’s a huge amount. Three million bucks represents a three per cent tax increase right there. That’s completely unacceptable.”

He said council expects staff to “jump through all kinds of hoops” to explain other budget spending or cuts, so it shouldn’t just “gloss over” this loss.

It is estimated that 60 entertainment events a year are needed for the AESC to have the opportunity to break even.

“Well, let’s get on it. Let’s get 60 events in the place – whatever it takes. I’m sick and tired of struggling through budget discussions and saving 10 grand here and 20 grand there when we’ve got this hemorrhaging at this facility.”

Smith said it was never in the plans to lose money when the building was built. And while he can’t blame staff for the economic downturn that coincided with the facility, he wants staff to provide concrete plans on how to solve the problem.

“It was conspicuously absent in all of the commentary and all the budget slides they show us, all the clever stuff we see, conspicuously absent were specific plans and that’s why I asked the question. It was in my view the elephant in the room. And there was no comments on this elephant. How are we going to feed it?” said Smith.

He’s hoping his concerns will reach more than the ears of staff.

“I want the message to go back to Philadelphia.”

Global Spectrum, which runs the arena on behalf of the city, has its head office in Philadelphia.