Arvada Center uncertain about long-term impacts of coronavirus

Even with PPP loan, some cuts could be inevitable, CEO says

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/6/20

Through her time volunteering at the Arvada Center, resident Mary Jo Giddings has noticed that the nonprofit’s volunteers tend to stick around for a while — much like she has, volunteerering with …

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Arvada Center uncertain about long-term impacts of coronavirus

Even with PPP loan, some cuts could be inevitable, CEO says

Posted

Through her time volunteering at the Arvada Center, resident Mary Jo Giddings has noticed that the nonprofit’s volunteers tend to stick around for a while — much like she has, volunteering with the center since its opening in 1976.

“My husband and I actually paid a babysitter so we could usher,” Giddings said. A volunteer on multiple councils at the Arvada Center, the organization has been a part of life for her throughout the vast majority of her 50-year residence in Arvada.

But as is the case with organizations of many sizes across the nation, after the height of the spring COVID-19 pandemic, the future of the Arvada Center and its programming remains slightly uncertain.

The center has canceled all of its events and closed its doors throughout the pandemic and is “seriously looking at canceling the June concerts as well,” said CEO and president Philip Sneed. He and his team have yet to evaluate whether concerts and events will go forward in July.

So far, the center has lost about $1 million in revenue because of the coronavirus. For the year, it operates on an almost $12 million budget, Sneed said.

That said, some saving graces have kept the center from making big reductions in the short-term. One has been a Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loan through the federal CARES Act. The center was approved for low-interest loan funding of about $1 million during the first round of distribution and received the funding the week of April 20.

“We were fortunate we were able to get them before they ran out,” Sneed said of the funds. “If it has to be repaid, it doesn’t help the bottom line, but it does help cash flow. (However) we’re optimistic that it can be forgiven or at least a portion of it can be.”

Looking ahead, he added that the biggest financial concerns are long-term. The center pays for some of its programming by filling its 1,600-, 525- and 225-person venues, and it’s unclear when such large gatherings will be able to resume.

“Will we have to seat patrons six feet apart? In most cases, that’s not enough to pay for the programming,” he said. “We would lose money by reopening.”

Other options that would ideally make patrons comfortable enough to attend in large numbers would be asking patrons to wear masks and checking temperatures at the door. Even so, Sneed said the center is preparing to continue to lose some revenue from a drop in attendance at whatever 2020 shows can go forward, and will need to make some cuts this year.

The center’s volunteers believe that large programming cuts - or anything more substantial, such as a full closure — “would be devastating,” in the words of Sara Fuentess. The Arvada resident volunteers with several of the center’s efforts including its Arts Day event for students.

“I can’t tell you the number of people who just walk into the center off the street. It’s so important to have arts and culture for the whole community,” she said, and without the center, “we’d lose all that community participation.”

Giddings agreed.

“From a practical point of view, the community would lose some income,” she said. “From an emotional point of view, we need the arts, no matter how good things are or how bad things are.”

Volunteers like Giddings and Patti Wagner, the center’s costume coordinator, pointed to the Arvada Center’s value in terms of the many people it brings in from surrounding cities, many of which do not have similar venues.

“The Arvada Center is a hidden gem in the suburbs that really benefits those people who may not want to or can’t afford to go downtown,” Wagner said.

She added that the nonprofit is known for bringing arts out into the community, such as through dance performances that travel to senior living facilities and other organizations.

Additionally, the center provides reduced-price arts programming for students from multiple Title I schools, or schools that qualify for federal funding for low-income students, said Wagner’s daughter, Kate, who teaches Arvada Center dance classes.

Financially, the Arvada Center and Arvada Events, which holds many gatherings at the center each year, have an impact not only on those two organizations but on the city as a whole, said city manager Mark Deven.

“We’ve hosted somewhere around 50,000 people a year who might happen to buy a meal or do some shopping in Olde Town or something along those lines,” he said. “There’s a favorable economic impact.”

The city in turn supports the center, not only paying bills associated with the building itself but also contributing about $1.7 million a year to its budget. Down the line, the city would be open to exploring how it could provide extra financial help if the center finds itself in need, Deven said.

Meanwhile, as those at the center await news on what’s next, they’re working to continue providing as much virtual programming as possible, such as through online classes, Wagner and Sneed said.

Those who believe strongly in the center’s mission have been providing financial support, Sneed added. About 50% of those who purchased tickets for events that couldn’t occur have either donated the tickets or accepted a gift certificate for a later event, as opposed to asking for a refund.

Residents can also support the center by making a donation or by purchasing season tickets for next season, Sneed said. As of April, the plan is to open the center’s fall theater season as announced.

“We’re following things closely,” Sneed said, “and we’re going to do everything required and more to make our spaces safe so everyone feels safe coming.”

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