After 10 years of watching the building formerly known as the John Labatt Centre exceed expectations, some councillors are wondering if now is the time to expand the facility.
During the Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee (IEPC) meeting on Tuesday, councillors received a report that states the contribution to the city from what is now the Budweiser Gardens reached $465,459 in 2012.
The original estimates of the facility’s operations predicted an average contribution to the city coffers of $169,563. Due to higher net incomes than budgeted, the city’s net proceeds have averaged $274,015 over the first decade of operations.
The city’s share of net proceeds varies over the life of the building’s lease. In years one to five, the city ‘s share was 20 percent, years six to 10 saw the contribution rise to 45 percent and in years 11 to 50 that number becomes 70 percent.
In addition, pre-construction estimations anticipated building attendance between 350,000 and 400,000 per year. In 2012, over 650,000 people attended events at the Budweiser Gardens — an increase of more than 50 percent higher over pre-build expectations.
Today, the Gardens consistently ranks at or near the top when compared to similar-sized buildings and was recently rated 72nd out of the top 100 facilitates in the world, regardless of size.
IEPC chair and Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan praised the operations of the building, calling it a “rip-roaring success.”
Swan extended the praise to Global Spectrum, the facility’s management company that manages the Gardens on behalf of the partnership London Civic Centre. Global Spectrum is responsible for the sale of naming rights, advertising, attractions, sales of suites and clubs seats and the operation of the building.
“On the international stage it is safe to say to the people who say let’s put London on the map, we are on the map,” Swan said. “Hats off to Global Spectrum for being a fine organization, well managed, well run, providing tremendous benefits to our community.”
Mayor Joe Fontana was equally proud of the facility, saying it is “punching above its weight class” in a variety of ways.
However, Fontana made mention that several months ago the idea of improving the building’s capacity was one of the 49 prosperity proposals delivered to the IEPC. The mayor questioned where that proposal stands and if now was the time to move forward with the idea. “Is it part of the idea bank or is it something out there and coming forward in some way, shape or form?”
Mike Turner, deputy city treasurer, said the idea of expanding the Gardens capacity, particularly in the backstage areas in terms of storage, is something that existed only in draft form several months ago. However, Turner said there are discussions planned with Global Spectrum officials around increasing the Gardens’ available space.
“Some of the increase would be to increase capacity for different kinds of shows. I know for some events there are concerns with space for media, those kinds of things,” Turner said. “I am meeting with Global Spectrum on that in the near future and a report will be coming back.”
Fontana said expanding capacity of the venue could lead to increased opportunities on an international level for London. “Perhaps we can look at that technology capacity as a way of further enhancing the economic driver Bud Gardens has become.”
Built at a cost of $40 million, as of 2012 there was $19,720,565.54 remaining in outstanding debt on the Budweiser Gardens. The final payment is expected in 2023.
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