RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Major concerns are surfacing over whether the Richmond Coliseum is losing too much money for the city to keep sustaining it. The arena is projected to be in the red again for this upcoming budget year 2018, with tax dollars paying about $1.5 million to keep it up and running.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says the Coliseum is in disrepair and spending that amount of money to maintain its operation is "unacceptable."
In its hay day, major acts like the Grateful Dead played the Coliseum, built in 1971. However, finance records obtained by NBC12 reveal the Coliseum has lost money since at least 2014, showing a "net operating loss" of $767,995 in 2014. That trend continued each consecutive year, with a projected $876,031 loss in 2018.
Richmond tax dollars make up the difference in a payment to the Coliseum's management company, SMG. Add to that an annual debt payment for renovations, and Richmonders are shelling out about a $1.5 million a year to keep the Coliseum in action. In previous years, the city has spent upwards of $1.8 million.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says his administration is looking to make a change in upcoming months, writing in a statement:
"The Coliseum is a sub-par facility in disrepair. Spending $1.8 million a year for it is unacceptable and not sustainable. Something has got to change, and in the coming months we will focus on what that change might mean and what it might look like."
City Council members, like Kim Gray, say the Coliseum is a sizable expense when they're straining for funds to unfreeze police and fire salaries, and repair aging school buildings.
"It's a costly venture. A lot of these (city) venues are costing us, and we need to decide if the return is greater than what we're paying out," said Gray.
However, occasional big-name acts like country stars Luke Bryan and Garth Brooks, and mainstay events like arena football, can still generate restaurant and hotel traffic. This boosts economic activity and other tax revenue for the city.
"A full analysis has to be done on all of these ventures that the city undertakes," added Gray.
The city's previous administration under former Mayor Dwight Jones entered into a contract with the Coliseum last year, which lasts through December of 2018.
NBC12 reached out to SMG, the management company for the Coliseum, and hasn't yet heard back.
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