OTTUMWA — Popular concerts and shows at Bridge View Center and a spike in hotel/motel tax revenue circulated more money through Ottumwa last year than predicted.
BVC executive director Larry Gawronski presented the City Council with a financial update Tuesday night. The center out-performed what its expectations last fiscal year, he said.
Total expenses were budgeted at more than $1.11 million last year, though the center spent $12,000 less than expected. The center also brought in nearly $5,000 more than it expected.
Therefore, the center’s net operating deficit was nearly $17,000 better than expected, at approximately -$387,000.
“In the first 12 months of VenuWorks [BVC’s management company], we’re very happy to have forecasted what we saw and realize where we’re going and to perform better on the income side, besting our expense side,” he said.
The increase is thanks to a number of successful events last year, he said, including Larry the Cable Guy, BVC’s theater series and the Oak Ridge Boys. This fall, he expects similar results with comedian Rodney Carrington on Sept. 19 and Kenny Rogers’ Christmas show on Dec. 20.
Upcoming announcements also include a country music group and iconic comedian, he said, though he couldn’t yet name either.
Last fiscal year, the center saw 410 event days, with attendance of more than 100,000. Direct spending totaled nearly $983,000.
“We’re very conservative on factorization because we don’t want to assume that some people spend more, some less,” he said. “We take a low number we knew was realistic and tangible.”
That direct spending has a four-fold economic impact on the entire community, he said, since with every additional “re-spend,” 60 percent is retained in the community. That’s an economic impact of more than $2.7 million.
“In plain English, I don’t know any person or business who wouldn’t invest $400,000 to see a return of $2.7 million at the end of the year,” he said. “That’s money well spent.”
Bridge View Center Inc., a nonprofit board, presented the city with $61,537.
“This represents 5 percent of what is in the foundation and what we’re able to give to the city to help the deficit,” said board president Dale Uehling.
The Ottumwa Area Convention and Visitors Bureau also brought the council good news. Revenues from the hotel/motel tax increased 20 percent ($65,240) in fiscal year 2013, totaling more than $384,000.
The city’s 7 percent hotel/motel tax brought in $384,077 last fiscal year, an “all-time high,” said Mark Eckman, executive director of the CVB.
“The double-digit increase in hotel/motel tax collections represents tremendous progress for Ottumwa as a travel destination,” Eckman said.
That spike is thanks to the hard work of the city’s hoteliers, he said, as well as the addition of Hampton Inn in April 2012, which increased the number of hotel rooms in Ottumwa by 18 percent. Currently, Ottumwa has nine hotels and two bed and breakfast properties, contributing to a total of 500 rooms.
“That goes a long way toward trying to help the city budget, in terms of what it does to take care of streets and services for the residents,” he said.
Hampton Inn is a more upscale hotel with higher prices and a loyalty program that attracts business professionals.
“Whether you agree or disagree with Vice President [Joe] Biden, part of the reason they stayed here was because of the Hilton loyalty program,” he said.
Eckman also noted that shortly before RAGBRAI began in July, Ottumwa was asked if it would be interested in being an overnight stop for RAGBRAI next year.
But a group of city officials decided to hold off on hosting the event until Ottumwa is in tip-top shape.
“We decided because of the construction in Ottumwa in 2014, with the replacement of Market Street Bridge, the work on Pennsylvania and Iowa Avenues, we replied and said we want to be considered for the future but 2014 is not a good idea for us,” Eckman said. “An event like that deserves the community at its best.”
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to twitter.com/chelsealeedavis.