If Ruoff Music Center is forced to stand quiet much longer, Noblesville city officials will have to find new ways to cover this year’s more than $350,000 in debt payments related to the venue.
Since 2006, the city of Noblesville has collected a $1-per-ticket admission tax for each ticket sold by Ruoff Music Center to help pay off annual debt payments on road and sewer improvements around the amphitheater. Last year’s 46% decline in revenue is likely to be even more drastic this year as events are canceled and postponed due to pandemic-related restrictions on large public gatherings.
“If that admissions tax comes in less than budgeted, we’ll have to go to other options,” Noblesville Controller Jeff Spalding said. “I’m not worried about making any debt service payments as a result of this revenue going down, but it’s certainly not good news.”
Ruoff Music Center, which seats 6,000 in a covered pavilion and another 18,000 on the lawn, opened its doors in 1989 as Deer Creek Music Center.
A spokesman for Live Nation, which operates the venue, declined to comment on past and future ticket sales, but data from the city shows the revenue associated with those sales have largely grown in recent years.
Between 2014 and 2017, the city collected an average of $494,000 in admissions tax revenue.
In 2018, the same year music trade publication Pollstar ranked Ruoff Music Center as the top amphitheater in the world for its ticket sales, the venue’s roughly 50 events provided the city with a record $718,000 in admission tax revenue.
Last year, Ruoff’s schedule listed just over 30 events, almost 20 fewer than the previous year, and the city’s revenue plummeted to about $389,000. As a result, Pollstar ranked the venue outside of its top five for the first time since 2015.
Prior to the spread of COVID-19, city officials expected to receive approximately $400,000 from Ruoff Music Center’s 2020 season lineup of 36 events.
“We have no new projections for 2020 because who knows when venues like that will be reopened,” Spalding said.
Two major acts—Dead and Company and the Zac Brown Band—have canceled performances at the venue. Several others have postponed their shows, hoping the venue will reopen sooner rather than later. If the city does not receive the $400,000 in ticket tax it budgeted for, Spalding said officials will have to pull revenue from elsewhere or shift that debt to other tax increment financing districts.
“The prudent thing for me to do is to think about filling the whole gap,” Spalding said. “If things work out better, then, so be it. If it winds up being a $50,000 gap, I’ll be thrilled.”