The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 23, 2020 1:00 am

Grand Wayne uncertain of 2021 success

Reports several new cancellations


Add Grand Wayne Center to the Fort Wayne venues facing 2020 losses and an uncertain 2021. 

Because of the coronavirus, bookings are down, and some clients are becoming wary of booking dates for 2021, officials of the downtown convention center told the Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board on Thursday morning.

The facility expects to tap about $1 million of its $6 million in reserves this year and about $750,000 next year, the board learned.

“We do anticipate we will still be in recovery mode for at least the first quarter of 2021,” said Marcy McKinley, sales and marketing director. “We are seeing several new cancellations.”

In February, prior to coronavirus restrictions, she said, Grand Wayne was expecting 51 confirmed groups, plus six in the inquiry stages and four corporate events that traditionally book within the same year. The traffic would have generated an estimated 24,000 overnight hotel room stays. 

But the facility will host only nine conventions in 2020, which equates to less than 3,700 rooms, McKinley said.

Although 55% of this year's events have rebooked, McKinley said the recovery won't be immediate. She said 2021 was shaping up to be a record year as of August, with 44 conventions confirmed or tentative and 22 in the inquiry stages.

But now clients are canceling or reconsidering signing a contract as the pandemic status remains uncertain, McKinley said. However, she expects 46 conventions next year.

Bart Shaw, Grand Wayne executive director, said furloughs of event staff, a 10% pay cut for retained staff and facility operation cost-savings have been implemented. 

The 2021 budget calls for $5 million in revenue and expenses of just under $5.75 million, or an expected deficit of about $750,000. Expenses are projected at $1.3 million below this year's budget because fewer events require less in staffing and supplies.

The marketing budget also has been trimmed by about $50,000, and while 3% raises for staff are included in the budget, the full amount is tentative based on staffing needs. The timing on raises has been pushed into the later months of 2021, depending on the situation.

Board President Jim Cook said the Grand Wayne is in better shape because of “good financial management” and a greater than predicted amount in food and beverage tax given the pandemic downturn in the restaurant industry.

The budget will be brought to City Council at the end of November and the Allen County Council in early December, officials said.

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