Proposed budget includes $2 million for Bloomington arena turnaround

Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 9:01 PM CST
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BLOOMINGTON (25 News Now) - A proposed record-high Bloomington city budget for the next fiscal year includes for the first time a full budget of about $2 million to book shows at taxpayer-owned Grossinger Motors Arena.

The indoor arena built to help revitalize Downtown Bloomington has lost money since it opened in 2006, and the pandemic made it even harder for the city to book big-time entertainment there.

City leaders terminated their contract with management firm VenuWorks to book all the shows, and the government is now running the arena on its own.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Bloomington Finance Director Scott Rathbun said staff is proposing a full entertainment budget of about $2 million for the fiscal year starting May. 1. Rathbun said staff expects the arena to lose about $384,000 this coming year, which is about the same as previous years.

Councilwoman Julie Emig from Ward 4, who decided not to run for reelection this year, said she’s optimistic the investment will help turn things around at the arena.

“I’m looking forward when I become a regular public resident of Bloomington about some strategic planning from the entertainment division so that there is a rationale for the investment,” said Emig.

Overall, staff is proposing a record $290.1 million budget, up almost 8% from the previous year, due largely to an increase in capital projects like the library expansion. A lot of that increase, according to the finance director, will be offset by state and federal grants.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for March 27, with a final council vote set for April 10.