Chris Corl told the Civic Center Commission on Tuesday that two significant issues cropped up during the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. The event is one of the center’s biggest revenue producers every year.
The sold-out event Christmas Jam was held Dec. 12 in the center’s arena. About 7,200 music fans filled the venue to hear Asheville native Haynes, a renowned rock guitarist, jam with fellow stars such as Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Doobie Brothers, Dawes and Bruce Hornsby.
The first problem was that an air handler valve blew about three hours before showtime, said Corl, which caused hundreds of gallons of water to gush over a balcony and fall dangerously close to the Christmas Jam’s main stage. Workers were able to clean up the 3 inches of standing water quickly and no equipment was damaged, he said. The cost to repair the valve was $4,000, Corl said.
The other costly breakdown was a lost Internet connection, which cut the center’s ability to process credit card transactions at several concession stands during the Christmas Jam, Corl said. Those stands were still able to accept cash, but Corl put the estimated lost credit card sales at $20,000.
The 2015 Christmas Jam grossed $159,000 in concession sales, according to Corl.
Corl told the commission that the problems that cropped up during the Christmas Jam were prime examples of deferred maintenance inside the aging building. The building’s bones, including its HVAC and electrical systems, its boilers and its wireless capacity, all need upgrading, said Corl.
The U.S. Cellular Center, formerly known as the Asheville Civic Center, was opened in 1974. The city of Asheville has struggled on and off over the past 20 years with repairs at the center, which over the past few years saw about $12 million in upgrades. The improvements included bathroom renovations, an expanded Thomas Wolfe auditorium lobby and new arena lighting and scoreboard displays.
Sam Powers, the center’s director, told the commission that the answer to funding improvements was to ask Asheville City Council to reallocate part of a pot of money that is earmarked for capital improvements to the building. Powers and commission members pledged to take the issue up with City Council.
In other news, the commission heard an update regarding its plans to renovate the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Last year, the city approved spending money on an acoustical and structural analysis of the auditorium, which is 75 years old. That study is complete, and the next step is to begin a campaign to seek funding for the renovations, according to commission members. The funding would come from three sources: taxpayers, private investment and corporate sponsorship.