Ames Center was on a roll before COVID-19

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The Ames Center recorded its highest annual operating profit in 2019 but is now shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Burnsville Ice Center, golf course revenue also dented 

Editor's note: The city announced on Wednesday, March 25, that the closing of city facilities to the public is being extended to June 30.

Since first turning a profit three years ago, Burnsville’s Ames Center has been on a roll.

The 2017 profit of $1,227 was followed by $73,761 in 2018. Last year, net operating income rose to $105,953.

But the performing arts center’s strong performance is endangered by COVID-19, which shuttered all city facilities to the public on March 14 and 15. They won’t reopen until at least April 13. Officials will decide whether a longer shutdown is needed to protect public health.

Losing a month or more of shows, concerts, youth dance competitions (an Ames Center revenue staple) and private rentals seems sure to dent the center’s 2020 bottom line.

Two other city enterprises also rely on leisure, recreation and youth customers: the Burnsville Ice Center and Birnamwood Golf Course. The Ice Center is closed to ice time rental, public skating and lessons. The nine-hole, par-3 golf course seems likely to miss at least early-season tee times and leagues.

For now the city is focused on public safety and keeping city workers safe, not revenue losses, according to Carissa Larsen, Burnsville’s interim director of communications and community engagement.

“Some of those other things will have to come later once we’re beyond the crisis mode,” she said.

Brian Luther, Ames Center executive director, said in a statement:

“Our clients have been very accommodating to this situation and they are working with us to postpone events rather than cancel whenever possible. Everyone at the Ames Center is working hard so we can continue providing arts and entertainment to our community when the time is appropriate to reopen.”

The 2020 Ames Center budget is $3.4 million. The center, which opened in 2009, is managed by VenuWorks under a contract with the city.

Brian Luther, who’s managed the center for VenuWorks since 2011, has said profits are unusual for public arts centers, arenas and convention centers, which typically operate at a loss while functioning as quality-of-life amenities and local economic engines.

Luther and VenuWorks have been praised by city officials for leading the Ames Center to profitability.

The Ice Center budget is $1.1 million, and the golf course budget is $300,000.

In addition to the Ames Center, Ice Center and golf course, city facilities closed to the public are City Hall, the maintenance facility, Burnsville Community Television and THE GARAGE.

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