Source: Chanhassen Villager

By Richard Crawford

Although the financial performance of the Waconia Event Center is coming up short of county projections envisioned four years ago, Carver County officials are receiving annual payments from the private operator and have been able to make upgrades to the historic building on Lake Waconia.

In 2008, Carver County purchased the 3-acre ballroom property for $2.5 million as part of a plan to add to Lake Waconia Regional Park. The Metropolitan Council is repaying the county for the purchase over time. The county decided to enter into an agreement with a private vendor to operate the ballroom, which has been a landmark in western Carver County since the 1930s.

Lancer Hospitality, the firm selected by the county to run the Waconia Event Center, has been managing events ranging from weddings to concerts to conferences.

The contract with Lancer called for the county to receive annual commissions of 10 percent of total revenue in 2010; 11 percent in 2011; and 12 percent in 2012 and thereafter.

At the time the contract was signed, the county estimated annual commissions would be $66,220 in 2012; $76,720 in 2011; and $87,220 in 2012.

However, actual commissions during those years have been about half of what was projected: $27,700, $38,300 and $42,800.

Steve Taylor, Carver County’s director of administrative services, said no tax dollars are used to maintain the Waconia Event Center. Lancer also is responsible for paying property taxes to the county. In 2012, Lancer paid $20,604 to the county. Lancer also pays for snow removal, landscape maintenance, general upkeep of the facility and other operating costs.

The county is responsible for paying building insurance ($5,800 per year), pumping a holding tank on the property ($9,200 per year) as well as building repairs and improvements.

The holding tank on the property was inspected in November 2012 and found to be fully compliant, Taylor said. Some of the repairs that the county has paid for include: repair of air conditioner and furnace, re-striping of parking lot stalls, replacing fencing, front doors, flooring and exterior siding. Taylor said plans call for rebuilding the main parking lot and updating the kitchen in the next two years.

“From a financial standpoint,” Taylor said, “We have a year-end 2012 positive fund balance of $15,500. The county assumes that Lancer will continue to generate $350,000 annually in gross receipts which in turn produces (at 12 percent commission) $42,000 in income.”

Carver County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, of Chaska, was a strong proponent of maintaining the ballroom and said the Waconia Event Center has been affected by the economy as similar businesses have been.

“I’d do it all over again,” Maluchnik said in regard to preserving the facility. “It’s the only facility of its kind that can handle large numbers of people in the western part of the county.”

Maluchnik said the Waconia Event Center also will continue to serve as a draw to the county’s regional park in years to come.