The National Senior Games sprinted across the finish line in the Twin Cities this July, but the event left behind a $300,000 bill in Minneapolis.
Local organizers of the massive 50-plus sports festival have not paid the city about $303,000 for use of the Convention Center, a payment that was due Aug. 21, city officials said Wednesday. All that has been paid is a $5,000 down payment from before the gathering, which is very rare for a large event at the Convention Center.
The situation is also unusual because the co-chairs of the event’s local organizing committee, which owes the money, have deep ties to the city’s convention and visitors bureau, Meet Minneapolis.
Susan Adams Loyd, president of Clear Channel Outdoor’s Twin Cities division, is secretary of the Meet Minneapolis board. Dave Mona, founder of public relations firm Weber Shandwick, is a former Meet Minneapolis board chairman.
The taxpayer-supported convention bureau contributed some money to the event, though Meet Minneapolis spokeswoman Kristen Montag said the amount is “competitive information” and would not reveal it. The board did not vote on the contribution.
Mona said Wednesday that they are still raising money and collecting hotel rebates to pay off roughly $500,000 in debts.
“We’ll be making payments shortly,” Mona said. “They’ll get some of the money they’re owed. I’m not sure how much, and then they’ll get more as additional money comes in.”
Records show a nonprofit entity, Golden Games Minnesota, was formed in 2013 to fundraise for the event. But Mona said that fundraising proved challenging partly because of competing campaigns for other events such as the 2018 Super Bowl bid.
“There’s a lot going on in the marketplace,” Mona said.
Organizers were also counting on a $200,000 allocation in state funding this year, Mona said, but that provision was struck at the last minute of the legislative session.
Marc Riker, the CEO of the Louisiana-based National Senior Games Association, said the local organizing entity is responsible for handling agreements with venues and vendors.
“It’s between the Golden Games Minnesota and those vendors to fulfill whatever obligations they have made,” Riker said.
City spokesman Casper Hill contrasted the unpaid balance with the Convention Center’s overall expected revenue this year, which will surpass $17 million. It’s typically not enough to cover expenses, however, necessitating an annual city subsidy of between $7.6 million and $11.8 million in recent years.
While nonpayment for conventions is very rare, it has occurred in the past on a smaller scale. In 2012, the city wrote off about $176,000 in uncollectable debts related to the Convention Center owed by five entities.
Mona noted that the Senior Games event was a “tremendous success.” Nearly 10,000 athletes competed, and the $2.2 million cost was less than half the initial budget estimate based on previous games.
Riker said the event featured representatives of every state, and its location in Minnesota this year was truly fitting.
“Minnesota always ranking high as one of the most fit states in the country, it as really kind of apropos that we had the games there,” Riker said. “The fittest seniors competing in the fittest state.”