Finance & Insurance

Fargodome sees improved financial picture thanks to federal grant and scheduled events

Not only did the city’s popular events center see a monthly revenue surplus for the first time since the pandemic shut down operations in spring 2020, but the dome also received a $3.7 million Shuttered Venue Operating Grant through a federal pandemic relief program.

The grant will erase the dome’s $770,000 deficit from last year and also address a $551,000 deficit from this year.

Finance Director Susan Thompson, who won praise from board member Nancy Jordheim and others for her work on the grant, said the dome had enough cash reserves to pay expenses during the pandemic and the federal aid will refill those coffers, too.

The dome’s losses would have been even greater last year except for a $1 million loss of business insurance policy they had purchased. That insurance company, however, wouldn’t renew that policy for this year because of the expected continued pandemic losses.

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Thompson said the paperwork and audits that go along with the federal grant are extensive but helpful because more revenue losses are still expected this year.

The grant program, operated through the Small Business Administration, will be put in a separate savings account and will be calculated into budgets from last year and this year to use for full-time salaries and benefits, utilities, business insurance and maintenance agreements.

U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, was one of the key members that pushed for the aid to events centers around the nation.

In a comment to The Forum, she wrote, “Independent venues were some of the first establishments to close down and have been some of the last to reopen.

“I led the charge to secure this funding for venues like the Fargodome and beloved institutions across Minnesota so they could get through this pandemic and continue to serve our communities for generations to come. There’s nothing like live music and concerts — they are here to stay,” she wrote.

Some of the other venues to receive bigger grants through the program as of July in Minnesota were $7.1 million to the Minnesota Zoo, $7.5 million to the Chanhassen Theater, $1.6 million to River Cinema Inc. of East Grand Forks, $96,163 to Tak Music Venue of Moorhead, $123,476 to Fergus Falls Center for the Arts, $7 million to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and $5 million to Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul.

In North Dakota, some of the grants were $3 million to Bismarck Event Center, $264,480 to the Fargo Theatre, $2.8 million to Jade Presents of Fargo, $84,480 to the Fargo-Moorhead Opera Co.., $29,062 to Theatre B of Fargo, $2.3 million to the North Dakota State Fair Association and $221,569 to Aspect LLC of West Fargo.

Also bringing smiles to the Fargodome board this week was a report from Vice President Michael Ellingson, who said so far this year the dome’s permanent reserve fund that is and will be used for improvements at the soon-to-be 30-year-old facility had an investment return of almost 21% through May of this year. The fund stands at $49 million, up from $43 million last summer.

The June surplus reported at the meeting was $51,000 in revenue over expenses.

General Manager Rob Sobolik credited the successful Happy Harry’s RibFest that drew about 81,000 people over four days as one of the big reasons for the first surplus in more than a year.

Guns N’ Roses on Aug. 11 will be the first big concert at the dome since the pandemic began.

Thompson said although there will be some tough days ahead, she expects finances to possibly be back to normal this fall with North Dakota State University football games at full attendance, trade shows scheduled and high school sporting events returning.