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Louisville arena has successful first year

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The KFC Yum Center is drawing mostly
cheers after its first year of operation in Louisville.
The arena spent years in the making at a cost of $238 million
and was expected to have a dramatic effect on Louisville's
entertainment, sports and downtown business scenes.
It opened last October to high expectations and so far it seems
to be meeting them, according to the principal players in the
planning, construction and management of the facility. Nearby
businesses are also giving good reviews to the arena, which has a
glowing reputation and is on schedule to make a profit.
Not only has the arena drawn big names in entertainment - such
as Elton John, Kid Rock and Katy Perry - new attendance records
have been set for University of Louisville men's and women's
basketball games.
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich told The Courier-Journal it
has "exceeded all of our expectations." (http://bit.ly/psutJ6).
Business owners say they are encouraged by the arena's success,
although most are still making some adjustments to meet the ebb and
flow of customers.
"It has been far more successful than I ever dreamed it would
be," said Jim Host, chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority.
"The facility has worked beautifully, and the concert reception
and the utilization of the facility by the public has been
fantastic."
Some had questioned whether Louisville could support or attract
a more robust concert schedule, but nine of the year's 30
highest-grossing tours played there, according to Pollstar, and
sold out the majority.
Dennis Petrullo, director of event bookings for the Louisville
area for AEG Facilities, which is responsible for concerts at the
Yum! Center said most non-UofL events at the arena had strong
ticket sales - only a handful had disappointing sales.
He said the industry has taken note of how many high-priced
shows have sold out, including the Eagles, Lady Gaga, Elton John,
Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
"What's really a great sign is when you can bring in these
quality shows with high ticket prices and be able to sell them,"
Petrullo said. "That's what interests promoters and agents and
bands to come back into the market."
The Yum! Center's profitability is a public concern because it
was partially funded by $75 million in state-backed bonds. The most
recent financial report for January through July of this year
showed a net loss of $467,402, but Host said that doesn't represent
the whole picture.
He said it doesn't include revenue from the arena's first three
months or the $2 million in concert sales since July. He also noted
that there will be 20 home basketball games from October through
the end of the year.
Host said he is confident after crunching the numbers that the
arena will show a profit of between $500,000 and $1.2 million in
its first year.
Several restaurants that opened in the area immediately
surrounding the arena say they are pleased with the increase in
business they've seen.
"Overall, it was a good first year, and I think this year will
definitely be better than the last," said Bluegrass Brewing
Company owner Pat Hagan said. "One thing we haven't been able to
figure out is that we thought the Yum! Center would get people used
to coming downtown even when there's nothing going on, but I think
that's going to be a long process."
Greg Powell, operations manager for Impellizzeri's, said
business has picked up at all three locations, and he attributed
that to people discovering the downtown location after games and
concerts. He said business drops off on event-free nights, but the
restaurant has compensated by pushing a lunch menu and catering
business meetings.
"We've just been really pleased," Powell said. "The most
difficult thing has been figuring out what's an A event and what's
a B, so we can staff accordingly. But you know it's only going to
get better. They didn't build that thing to not keep it booked."
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Information from: The Courier-Journal,
http://www.courier-journal.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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