Burnsville’s performing arts center had a good year in 2015 — but it still lost money, and probably will continue to do so.
“It’s common that facilities of this nature do operate at a loss,” said Executive Director Brian Luther.
Since opening in 2009, the city-owned Ames Center has made ends meet with a funding recipe that includes city dollars and donations. The city kicks in money for operational and debt service expenses, an “angel fund” bankrolls certain shows, and Ames Construction, the center’s namesake, pledged $1 million over a decade, starting in 2014.
The center finished its first year with an operating deficit of more than half a million dollars — about $200,000 more than what the city had expected to pay. That number has dropped over time, though. Last year’s operating loss was about $87,800, up from 2014 but still less than the $100,000 the city had budgeted for.
The news brought smiles to members of the city’s Ames Center Advisory Commission at a meeting Wednesday night.
“I’d like to say congratulations to you and your team,” Chairwoman Kathy Cleveland told Luther after his presentation. The team’s work on the center’s budget and finances has been “outstanding,” she said.
The city is expecting operating subsidies of less than $100,000 for the next five years, said Finance Director Kelly Strey. Pushing that number even lower in the future “would always be the best option,” she said, but the current funding level is realistic.
“Each year, they’ve been improving their operations, and so we’re happy with that,” she said.
Attendance is up, and about half of attendees come from outside the south metro. Dance competitions draw crowds for part of the year, followed by plays and concerts — including a smattering of holiday shows — later in the year.
In 2015, attendance increased by more than 30 percent over 2014, to more than 180,000 people.
“That’ll be a tough number to beat next year,” Luther said Wednesday, “but we’ll give it our best.”