Lagging attendance hits Sanford Center budget: Director reports estimated $17.7 million economic impact

BEMIDJI--Lower attendance at Bemidji State hockey games and a winter with strong storms resulted in larger operating losses than expected at the Sanford Center in 2018.


BEMIDJI-Lower attendance at Bemidji State hockey games and a winter with strong storms resulted in larger operating losses than expected at the Sanford Center in 2018.

During a Bemidji City Council meeting Monday, the facility's Executive Director Jeff Kossow presented a report recapping how the Sanford Center operated financially. According to the report, an operating loss of $398,865 was budgeted for 2018, however, Kossow said the operating loss came to a total of $421,735.

When factoring in the city's annual operating transfer of $400,000 to the equation, the loss comes to $21,734. That might not be the final number reported for 2018, though, as Kossow also noted an amount between $4,000 and $6,000 will come back to the Sanford Center via rebates.

"With that additional $4,000 to $6,000, it will likely be closer to $17,000, as opposed to $21,000," Kossow said. "One difference was we had less games for hockey, which had an impact on us. We also had snow over the winter, and when we get hit that much, it can start getting costly to remove the snow. We also had an attendance last year that dropped substantially for many of our hockey games."

Opened in 2010, the Sanford Center is home to both the BSU men's and women's hockey teams. The college teams play in the 4,373-seat arena, which is connected to a space for conferences.


Despite the drop, the report showed sports as the No. 1 attendance driver, with 38,350 people walking through the Sanford Center's doors. Second was community and/or civic events with 24,274, followed by recreational sports bringing in 13,365. Total attendance for 2018 was 115,645.

Over the course of the year, the Sanford Center had success in spring and fall. October had the highest attendance with 15,241, followed by 13,518 in April and 13,590 in May.

As part of the report, Kossow said the Sanford Center had an estimated $17.7 million economic impact on the Bemidji region as a whole.

Another report presented Monday was by Dr. Pat Welle, speaking on behalf of the Bemidji Citizens Climate Lobby. Last year, the council approved a resolution put forward by the lobby to recognize climate change and urge the United States Congress to levy a revenue neutral fee on carbon emissions.

The resolution, passed in September 2018, states that "climate scientists worldwide are in near-unanimous agreement that the Earth is warming rapidly, which is causing changes in climate that are perilous to Earth's natural systems and human civilization."

Also noted by the resolution was Bemidji's involvement in the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.

On Monday, Welle recommended giving the effort an updated resolution of support in light of the renewed 2019 version of the legislation. Along with new legislation introduced, Welle also informed the council about a new statement coming forward endorsing the carbon fee and dividend policy.

"Forty-eight renowned economists came forward to say this is the way to combat climate change," Welle said. "Amongst those, 27 are Nobel Prize winners in economics."

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