The Baltimore Arena is operating in the black for the first time in recent memory, but the city still paid $332,000 last year to the firm that manages the facility.
That fee, however, is a far cry from the $1.2 million the city-owned arena cost taxpayers before its management was put into private hands in 1988.
Under a complex 1988 contract giving control of the 13,000-seat building to Centre Management, the city will pay a fee to the company until the arena's profit tops $484,000. But Centre management is obligated to cover any losses above $650,000. Last year, the arena turned a profit of $14,070.
"We told the city at the time that we took over that we would eliminate the operating deficit in five years," said Abe Pollin, chairman of the board of the Centre Group, the parent company of Centre Management. "We did it in two."
The financial turnaround resulted from "professional management" which was able to cut costs and boost revenues, Pollin said.
Centre Management, which manages six venues on the East Coast, was able to use its experience in the facilities management business to draw big-time stars and events to the Baltimore Arena, he said.
Last year, arena headliners included M.C. Hammer, New Kids on the Block and Randy Travis with Ricky Van Shelton. Events already in the works for the future include the 1992 Olympic Gymnastics Trials.
Even the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is set to return to the arena in 1993. The popular attraction had pulled out of the arena in 1988, because of a long feud with Pollin. But the feud is now history, and the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth is scheduled to return to Baltimore by 1993.
"Centre Management has surpassed my expectations has been in the mix of of entertainment that they have brought to the arena," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
In addition to booking attractive events, the arena under Centre Management has been able to make money where it couldn't when it was run by the city.
For instance, the arena last year took in $370,000 from advertisers who placed signs in and around the facility. Before Centre Management assumed control, it generated only $15,000 $20,000 in ad revenue, Pollin said.