ROCKFORD — The agency that operates the BMO Harris Bank Center and Coronado Performing Arts Center is asking the city for a $2 million line of credit after dozens of events at the city's downtown venues were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Craig Thomas, chairman of the board of the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority, laid out the agency's predicament in a letter Wednesday to Mayor Tom McNamara.
The two city-owned venues have effectively gone dark since Gov. JB Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order in March. Forty events have been canceled or rescheduled, including six Rockford IceHogs hockey games.
RAVE reported revenue of around $812,000 in March 2019. But now, monthly revenue has effectively “gone down to zero,” Thomas said.
To offset the loss of income, RAVE has eliminated part-time staff and furloughed 24 full-time employees. Only RAVE general manager Troy Flynn and six other essential workers remain on the payroll to keep watch over the venues and plan for their eventual reopening, whenever that may come. However, those seven employees are reporting to work on a rotating basis — saving the agency money by taking one week off per month, with no pay, until further notice.
During a meeting on Wednesday, the RAVE board discussed the fallout from the pandemic and Thomas the green light to send the letter to McNamara asking for the line of credit. The agency wouldn't necessarily need the entire $2 million, Thomas said, but would access funds as needed in coming months.
It's uncertain how long the pandemic will close down professional sports, concerts and other entertainment businesses. Fortunately for Rockford, Thomas said, June and July are typically the weakest months of the year for RAVE in terms of income. He said he hoped entertainment businesses can resume by fall, at least in a limited fashion so the financial impact on RAVE is minimal.
In the meantime, RAVE's skeleton crew of employees continues to sell IceHogs season tickets for next season and to keep the team's fans engaged with giveaways and promotions on social media, including rebroadcasts of the team's 2018 Calder Cup playoff games on Facebook.
“We've had significant discussion with the city, so they understand where we stand,” Thomas said. “We're confident ... that our ask is realistic and that our financial analysis is grounded in reality.”
Flynn encouraged IceHogs fans to stay engaged with the team's website and Facebook and Instagram pages. Residents can go to thebmoharrisbankcenter.com and coronadopac.org for the latest information about events and activities at the city venues.
“Stay engaged,” Flynn said. “We're going to have a hockey season next year. We're going to host events next year. People are going to want to be entertained (and) we're the spot for that entertainment.”
Isaac Guerrero: firstname.lastname@example.org; @isaac_rrs