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05 December 2013

Government-Funded Civic Center in Clayton County May End Up Being Money-Loser for Taxpayers

The Clayton News Daily reports that voters may be asked to approve construction of a multi-million dollar civic center when they vote on authorizing the county's special local option sales tax (SPLOST) in 2014.

County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner confirmed Tuesday that a civic center has been proposed for inclusion in the SPLOST project list. The facility could provide a place for athletic events, concerts and high school graduations, but its inclusion on the final list is far from a done deal, said Turner.

Yeomans, Curt (29 November 2013). Jeff Turner said Clayton County leaders considering civic center for 2015 SPLOST. Clayton News Daily. Retrieved on 5 December 2013.

Clayton County residents seem receptive to the idea of a taxpayer-funded civic center, with some suggesting the county building a facility that equals or matches the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre located in Marietta. Still, if history is any guide, it remains to be seen whether a government owned-and-operated entertainment facility can sustain itself financially.

The City of Atlanta owned-and-operated Boisfeuillet Jones Civic Center, according to a 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, is on pace to lose $400,000 annually.

In Fulton County, which borders Clayton County to the north and the west, taxpayers spent more than $6 million to build the Wolf Creek Amphitheater. The facility sits vacant most of the year. And in 2012, the Wolf Creek Amphitheater cancelled its only show after the county spent $18,000 advertising the event but sold only 215 tickets for the 5,400-seat facility. Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards, who represents the area where Wolf Creek is located, even admitted, "We don't make money in these types of deals" [Willis, Carl (20 May 2012). New amphitheater draws thousands amid profitability concerns. WSB-TV. Retrieved on 5 December 2013.].

The Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, located in Cobb County, is a rental facility that still costs taxpayers money ten years after it was built. According to the Marietta Daily Journal, "the county has put up millions more to cover expenses when ticket sales and facility rentals fell short" [Folsom, Geoff (25 May 2012). Locals hope to lure acts to amphitheater. Marietta Daily Journal. Retrieved on 5 December 2013.].

The Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre lost over $4 million during its first seven years of operation.

It is unknown if the failures of Cobb County, Fulton County, and the City of Atlanta will occur again in Clayton County. Residents who live there may question the priority of building a civic center when the county lacks mass transit, and decide public funds may need to be spent elsewhere.