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Councilman Calls Centre Financials "Misleading"

John Friend says The Centre's financial statements are misleading the public as to the venue's true financial state. He says if the convention center shut down, taxpayers would lose big bucks.
Evansville's convention center is considered by some to be dangling in the balance of the downtown convention hotel debate. Vanderburgh County Commission President Marsha Abell recently wrote council members a bold letter suggesting The Centre was at risk of closing, should the council vote against the proposal.

"Our income is suffering at The Centre and we do need the hotel built," said Abell, following the commission meeting Tuesday. "We assumed there was gonna be a hotel there long before now."

The Centre is a shell of its former life. The 280,000 sq. ft. convention center was once a busy, vibrant venue. County leaders attribute its economic decay to the loss of the Executive Inn; its sky walk is often called 'the bridge to nowhere.' "It's very sad cause we were so proud of that when we opened it," said Abell.

John Friend (D-5th Ward) says The Centre's financial statements are misleading. He says if The Centre shut down, taxpayers would lose big bucks. Abell says Friend is not taking into account the level of subsidy The Centre receives from the county's general fund.

Friend says there is more to The Centre's finances than what meets the eye because ts financial statements don't account for the innkeeper's tax revenue. "The reports don't reflect that," said Friend. "At a minimum it should have been footnoted."

By Indiana statute, The Centre is due 25-percent of the county's total innkeepers tax revenue to operate the convention space. Friend says the hundreds of thousands of dollars The Centre receives in tax revenue is understated in its financial statements.

"I am not suggesting this was an intentional misleading of records, just everybody needs to know what's going on in that Centre," said Friend.

The numbers show the convention center is not making money by itself, it is making some money with the innkeepers tax revenue.

In 2011 the venue reported a $286, 753 deficiency and received $905,485 from the innkeepers subsidy, leaving $618,732 that could be used to offset The Centre's debt service. "So why would you want to shut it down, lose that and still have to make the bond payments? That's my point," said Friend.

Friend admits The Centre would be operating on losses without the subsidy. But by law, tax money is there, keeping the convention center afloat
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