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Review of 2018 goals, 2019 outlook in American Bank Center presentation to council

Posted at 10:46 PM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 11:18:15-04

It was just over a year ago that city council had concerns about how the American Bank Center was managed by SMG. That’s after council members learned the convention center was losing money.

Despite still falling short of income goals, the new general manger said during a presentation to city council that operations at the facility are trending in a positive direction.

“SMG met its benchmark goals in hotel room nights, community involvement and repairs and maintenance,” Matt Blasy, general manager of the American Bank Center, told council members at Tuesday’s meeting.

However, benchmarks were not met in several categories including adjusted gross income. Blasy said SMG reached 87 percent of that goal. Still, he said the other achievements show the true value of the facility.

“Beyond the four walls of the American Bank Center is the overall economic impact the facility has,” Blasy told KRIS 6 News. “So when we bring conventions, we’re really not driving revenues to our bottom line but it’s filling hotels and restaurants.”

Beyond conventions, an emphasis on promoting other events has improved attendance and revenue. That includes national touring shows like last month’s sold out KISS concert.

“Success breeds success so the more that we’re doing well with these shows, the more we’re going to be on the radar for future shows. The support from the community has been amazing,” Blasy said.

SMG isn’t only relying on big names and higher than average ticket prices to measure its success. So-called “homegrown events” that are free or more affordable, like last year’s “A Coastal Christmas,” are also a big part of the staff’s strategy to improve operations.

Blasy explained, “Draw more people to the American Bank Center, increase attendance downtown and just really give back to the community as well, with promotion of local business and non-profit organizations.”

He said anchor tenants like the Ice Rays, A&M-Corpus Christi, and the Buc Days Rodeo also help with stability.

City council has taken notice of the progress. Speaking of Blasy’s leadership, council at-large member Paulette Guajardo said, “Your leadership is relied upon heavily by us and the community and you have done some wonderful things since you’ve been here.”

Blasy said SMG also completed 10 capital improvement projects last year — all on time and under budget. About $9 million has already been approved for more projects this fiscal year.

As far as events, more of them are in the works. Blasy said four or five arena shows are already on the calendar for this year. The Mixtape Tour headlined by New Kids on the Block will be here on May 13. Latin music superstar Luis Miguel will be in concert on June 29. Also, the mega-group “Mana” will return on Sept. 4.

Blasy also said SMG staff will announce another homegrown event in April that he calls a potential gamechanger for our community.