The city of Minneapolis still hasn't been paid by the National Senior Games for use of the Convention Center in 2015, and the city is now treating the unpaid bill as a loss.
"While the city continues to explore whether any options remain to collect the money that the Senior Games owes the Convention Center, it has written off, for accounting purposes, $273,834.71 in bad debt for the Senior Games," the city said in a statement to the Star Tribune.
Sold as an economic boon for the community, the Senior Games attracted 10,000 participants over two weeks in July 2015. But the event has left a trail of unpaid bills to the city and local small businesses totaling $400,000.
"We went back and forth for a long time and finally just let it go," said Bruce Evans, whose two-person marketing firm in Minneapolis is owed $7,700.
Evans received a letter in September informing him that Golden Games Minnesota was dissolving, and asking him to submit claims to a law firm for unpaid bills. He sent in his invoice, then quickly received a letter saying he would not be paid.
"They were just going through the motions," Evans said.
Dave Mona, the co-chairman of Golden Games Minnesota, said the organizing committee gave up raising money in the fall.
"All the creditors received a letter saying that we'd exhausted our efforts to raise money, there was no money left and we were dissolving the corporation," he said.
Some 24 vendors, including the city, were left with unpaid bills, Mona said. Many of the businesses, which specialize in conferences and events, were referred to the organizing committees for the X Games, the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four, Mona said, in hopes that they will be able to recoup some of their losses with new work.
Senior Games organizers had been banking on a legislative appropriation before the event in 2015, but it fell through. Then a key sponsor dropped out at the last minute. Mona said fundraising was difficult partly due to competing campaigns for other major events like the 2018 Super Bowl.
The next National Senior Games is scheduled to be held in Birmingham, Ala., in 2017. The National Senior Games Association, based in Louisiana, is independent of the local organizing committees that make arrangements with local venues and vendors.
The unpaid bills in Minnesota are particularly unusual because the local committee has ties to the city's taxpayer-supported tourism bureau, Meet Minneapolis, whose mission includes bringing revenue to the Convention Center. Meet Minneapolis joined with St. Paul's and Bloomington's bureaus to fund the creation of Golden Games Minnesota, which was based in Meet Minneapolis' downtown offices.
Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis, reassured vendors in late 2015 that they would be paid. Later he said it was "disappointing" and "especially concerning that the organization has not paid the Minneapolis Convention Center in full, as well as other vendors." Tennant declined to comment on Wednesday.
Evans, one of several vendors left unpaid after working on the event, said he'll always be skeptical of the economic benefits of large events in the Twin Cities.
"The city officials tout that it brought in $30 million in revenue, but at whose expense?" Evans said.
"Now we have the X Games coming, we have the Super Bowl coming, we have the Final Four coming. Is it just going to be a cycle?"