LIMA — To keep the Veterans Memorial Civic Center afloat over the next few months, Allen County Commissioners officially approved Civic Center CEO Abe Ambroza’s request to shift funds from the center’s marketing budget to pay for operations.
Passed Thurday morning, the resolution allows the Civic Center to use $238,000 of its marketing dollars to stay open until next spring, when Ambroza expects graduation parties and dance recitals to pick back up. The Civic Center’s budget took a big hit when the coronavirus pandemic caused events to cancel.
“We know that this is a difficult decision to leverage these dollars, but like you said, the best way to market the Civic Center is to keep it open,” Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert said to Ambroza on Thursday. “This is a critical time. It’s appropriate that we take this action collectively.”
Ambroza already had received approval by the Civic Center Foundation’s board to shift those dollars, and he met with commissioners in early November to ensure the county — which owns the property — gave its green light on the move.
With the county’s approval now in hand, the Civic Center can use the additional dollars on payroll and utilities as a stopgap measure for the next few months. Earlier this year, Ambroza said the Civic Center had already cut half its staff and trimmed hours for those remaining, and the $238,000 would be just enough to cover its operating costs until spring.
Without those funds, the Civic Center would have had just enough in its cash reserves to stay open until the end of the year.
Other entertainment venues, such as the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, have already made the decision to shutter until the pandemic is expected to improve in 2021, but Ambroza said the center’s current staff need to be available to answer phones and line up event scheduling throughout the new year. He said many people have been booking exhibition halls in 2021 in anticipation of holding major celebrations after the pandemic subsides, which should bring revenue back to a workable level.
“There is some optimism in the world of entertainment when it comes to vaccines, but we desperately need something to be able to pay the bills until we can generate the revenue that we typically do,” Ambroza said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.