Why Are The Banks Dragging Their Feet On A New Venue?

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There have been rumors swirling around the Queen City for quite some time about a plan to bring an indoor and outdoor concert pavilion to The Banks. Scott Stienecker, CEO and President of PromoWest Productions, now confirms that he has spent three years and over $100,000 trying to get this project done. He has now looked at five different locations for the venue, to model what he has built in Columbus (Express Live, built in 2001) and Pittsburgh (Stage AE, built in 2010). 

According to this recent WCPO Insider article:
Over the years, Stienecker said he has been turned down twice to build at different locations at The Banks. He also considered sites near Montgomery Inn Boathouse and the old Milacron factory site in Oakley.  

He’s also heard mixed messages from The Banks’ leaders who, at one point, told him his concert plan was nixed.

“The mayor has been great, (Cincinnati Parks Director) Willie Carden has been great… The fall down has been this mysterious secret The Banks Steering Committee,” Stienecker said.

You can read the full article here

In January, The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra threw their name in the hat of potential builders of a new venue at The Banks. Little has been reported about the progress of the project, but it seems that The Banks steering committee are stalling the project.

Why Do People Go To The Banks?
Talk to any business owner at The Banks & you will quickly realize that their business is dependent on events. Don’t get me wrong, The Parks are amazing and are finally bringing a pretty steady crowd to the Riverfront regardless of Ball Games or concerts at The Arena. But when snow is on the ground & no one wants to pay to park, these businesses typically only see surges surrounding Football games & events at U.S. Bank Arena.

When PromoWest’s Express Live! Pavilion (formerly LC Pavilion) was built in 2001 no one was going to that part of town. The venue was built on the site of the razed original Ohio Penitentiary. Now the area is referred to as the city’s hippest arts and entertainment area, the Arena District, attracting more than a billion dollars in private investment over the last fifteen years. 

A new venue at the Banks could potentially draw 350,000 people annually. Those 350,000 people need to park, eat, and drink. Plus, they would be exposed to other businesses at The Banks and would likely come back after experiencing it. The venue would serve as another anchor tenant like The Reds, Bengals, and U.S. Bank Arena. 

Do We Really Need Another Venue?
This is a valid question that a lot of people are asking. However, when you look a bit further you will realize that this size venue is actually something that this market is sorely lacking. The proposed venue is a 2,400 cap indoor facility and a 5,000 cap outdoor facility. U.S. Bank Arena’s smallest configuration is just over 5,000, so any show considered for this new venue isn’t even on the same circuit. PNC Pavilion has a capacity of 4,100, but that is a seated amphitheater that is only available from May to October. The Taft Theatre has a capacity of 2,277, The Aronoff Center has a capacity of 2,059, and Music Hall currently has a capacity of 3,400. However, Theatre shows are typically much different than shows intended for amphitheaters and clubs. Plus, many artists are looking for GA rooms with a large capacity. The largest GA rooms in the market are Bogart’s (1,450 cap) and The Madison Theater (1,700 cap), less than half of the proposed capacity of this new room.  

Anyone that frequents our website is well aware of the shows that pass up Cincinnati for Columbus. Just over the past few months we can point out a few: 

Tegan And Sara (Averaging 1,600 tickets sold)
The Avett Brothers (Averaging 5,100 tickets sold)
Flume (Averaging 2,200 tickets sold)
Two Door Cinema Club (Averaging 3,700 tickets sold)
Cage The Elephant (Averaging 2,100 tickets sold)
The 1975 (Averaging 2,900 tickets sold)
Ellie Goulding (Averaging 6,500 tickets sold)
Slayer (Averaging 2,800 tickets sold)
Kacey Musgraves (Averaging 1,500 tickets sold)
Nightwish (Averaging 3,800 tickets sold)
Eli Young Band (Averaging 2,100 tickets sold)
The List Goes On… 

These are all shows that Cincinnati simply didn’t get because we don’t have a facility that allows the artist to reach their full potential. They could play a smaller room, but they will make significantly less money (can you blame them for skipping us?). They could also play a larger room, but it would need to be seated and in most cases would only be half full (again, who wants to play to a half-full room?). 

If Cincinnati had a venue on the banks and they managed to book all of these shows, that would have been an additional 34,300 people visiting the Banks. I don’t know, maybe another sports bar is a better use of the space (that’s extreme sarcasm). 

In addition to concerts, the venue can serve as host for private events and tailgating events. 

Wait, No One Has Their Hand Out?
All you hear about these days are startups getting rounds of funding from investors, or organizations asking for assistance from the government.  

“We don’t utilize any public funding whatsoever,” says Stienecker. “We’re entrepreneurs who took a risk, and it paid off.”

Actually, The City Would Profit A Lot
Many people may not realize, but the City of Cincinnati has something called an admissions tax. This is a tax that ONLY applies to a business such as a concert venue. If this venue sells the projected 350,000 tickets at an average of $25 (The national average for concert tickets in 2015 was actually $74.25, so we are being super conservative here), the city would receive $244,150.49 in admissions tax alone. EACH YEAR!  

In addition, the City of Cincinnati has a special 2.1% income tax that only applies to Athletes and Entertainers. If we use the same figures as above and assume that the artists are taking 65% of the Gross (which again, is SUPER conservative) the city would receive $119,437.50!

That’s $363,587.99 in taxes that no other type of business pays, annually. You can add sales tax, payroll taxes, property taxes, etc. on to that.

Just this week, this was published by the concert industry trade journal Pollstar:
“PromoWest has since located some land north of Cincinnati as an alternative site but Stienecker is still interested in making the downtown plan work.” 

Keep in mind that if this venue moves outside the city limits of Cincinnati they will not receive that $363,587.99 in annual taxes. So, what’s the problem Cincinnati?