The Well: Older, but aging well, consultant says

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well-sidebar-1The Bon Secours Wellness Arena is well maintained, but the 18-year-old building will need $26 million in capital expenditures over the next 20 years to keep it in proper shape, a consultant says.

One area of concern is the arena’s roof, according to Dallas-based CSL International, a sports and entertainment facility development adviser.

In July 2014, arena officials announced that the second phase of a $14.5 million, three-year renovation plan had begun and was to include a new roof.

But in many locations, the upper roof membrane has degraded, CSL said. In addition, there are several issues related to the lightning protection system, including lightning cables that aren’t connected to cable supports. Some cables also are so close to the roof surface that they create a dam and water ponds, the consultant said. CSL also noted that arena officials should hire an independent roofing consultant to determine if claims can be made under the current warranty for work done in the last couple of years.

The roof is “a fairly significant concern,” Tom Williams, a partner with Venue Solutions Group, which collaborated with CSL in the study, told the Greenville Arena District’s board of trustees during a meeting Dec. 20.

A new roof would likely be needed in two to four years, but that could be postponed if repairs are made under warranty, he said.

The renovation and capital improvement study was prepared for the trustees, who oversee management of the arena. It said the Well’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are in good working order and properly maintained.

In addition, the fire protection system’s sprinkler piping and coverage is sufficient and in compliance with National Fire Protection Association standards, CSL said. A fire pump, however, will have to be replaced within three years.

Trustees are reviewing the roof issues, and Beth Paul, the arena’s general manager, said the study results and a related survey of ticket purchasers and others will be used for strategic planning.

In studying the arena’s goals and objectives, CSL also sought to determine new features or premium seating options that could improve the entertainment experience for event attendees and what impact renovations and added premium seating options would have on the arena’s financial performance.

CSL surveyed 7,186 current and former arena attendees, including Ticketmaster ticket purchasers, luxury-suite and club-seat buyers and corporate sponsors. CSL said 144, or 2 percent, responded. That was slightly lower than the targeted response rate but acceptable, said Michael Miller, a CSL project manager.

CSL’s building program recommendations included adding 20 four-seat loge boxes at a weighted average annual price of $16,375 to provide more premium seating and expanding the arena’s patio into the concourse to create a 3,500-square-foot club lounge and charging $15 per event for access.

CSL also recommended building a 7,500- to 10,000-square-foot multipurpose event space that could be rented on nonevent days or double as a restaurant during arena events.

The adviser’s preliminary estimate to install the loge boxes, expand the patio and build event space was $5 million to $10 million.

CSL estimated the new concepts — loge boxes, restaurant and event center, patio lounge and restaurant and patio lounge sponsorship — would generate more than $1 million in revenue annually.

well-sidebar-2Among key survey findings, only 8 percent of respondents have visited the arena’s patio, which opened in April. The outdoor area has food and beverage specials, craft beers, specialty food and early access for select events.

Those who have visited the patio ranked their overall experience, on average, a 5 out of 7 points. Those who haven’t visited indicated that comfortable seating and live music most likely would attract them.

“One of the biggest things that came out of the survey from our side is that your fans are looking for an entertainment experience to complement the event that they’re at, whether it’s a concert or a family show,” Miller told the trustees.

According to the survey, 64 percent of respondents would pay a $15-per-event access fee to a renovated patio area. Seventy-three percent would pay $10 per event.

An average of 62 percent of those who attend arena events come from outside Greenville County, CSL said.

In gauging customer satisfaction, arena conditions rated highly in the survey, especially in terms of location, cleanliness, exterior appearance and customer service. However, The Well didn’t fare as well in the area of concessions, particularly in how patrons viewed the value for prices paid.

Patrons also didn’t find seating all that enjoyable either. Seat comfort received the lowest satisfaction rating in that category.

The arena, bolstered in part by three Garth Brooks concerts, drew attendance of almost 87,000 people in November. It posted an operating profit of $460,054 for the month, or nearly $118,000 greater than budgeted, arena district figures show. Through the first five months of its fiscal year, the arena has an operating profit of $771,052, or $253,072 more than budgeted.

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