As we prepare to embark on a new Manchester Monarchs hockey season, we must remember that many local elected officials, including Democrat City Chairman Ray Buckley and his minions, fought fiercely against the project. Many felt that Wieczorek’s election loss as Mayor came about because of his courage and vision in advocating for the arena. His opponents said, “the arena was the wrong time, wrong place and a financial shell game.”
Then Governor Craig Benson told First Lady LauraBush, “Ray Wieczorek put his political career on the line to do what he believed was right even though it was unpopular among the nay-sayers to support the arena.”
Today, thanks to Ray Wieczorek’s political courage and strong leadership, the Verizon Center was built despite carping critics. It has changed the direction of downtown Manchester and it is a moneymaker.
Both Pollstar and Billboard ranked the Verizon Center in the Top Ten Arenas in the World with 15,000 seats or less. Billboard calls it “one of the top grossing arenas in the world, grossing $9,949,575 dollars.”
In addition to the Monarchs and the Manchester Wolves, it brings in concerts, touring family shows and special sporting events. Elton John, Aerosmith, WWF Wrestling, Neil Diamond, Sesame Street, The Boston Pops and Wiggles all drew over 10,000 fans each to the Verizon Center. The Verizon Wireless Arena total attendance figures are approaching 3.5 million people who have attended an event at the once-controversial project. In 2002, 686,971 attended; 2003, 683,658 attended; 2004, 703,705 attended; 2005, 677,896 attended; 2006 650,000 est. Over 100 events were sellouts.
The arena has been a moneymaker. In 2005, net operating income was $2.32 million and it was $2.3 million in 2004, according to independent audits provided to the City. The successful cash flow of the arena has let the City start pre-paying the bank debt that was used to finance the arena--$271 thousand dollars in prepayments were made last year according to Deputy Finance Officer, Randy Sherman.
According to a Manchester Monarchs fan zip code source survey, 197,200 people came to Manchester from over 30 miles away. This has increased new nightlife with restaurants and night clubs springing up ever since the arena opened in November, 2001. The arena has spurred the downtown economy. A recent New Hampshire office market report issued by C.B. Richard Ellis/New England, a commercial real estate firm, says that the Interstate 93/Route 3 Corridor Office Market is a tale of two cities. While Nashua’s office vacancy rate increased from 14.8 percent in 2004 to19.8 percent in 2005. Manchester, just 18 miles up the road and home of the arena, experienced a decrease in vacancy for the third consecutive year. The Queen City went from 17.5 percent in 2003 to 12.8 percent in 2004 and all the way down to 9.8 percent in 2005. The Ellis Report goes on to say, “the decrease in vacancy in Manchester can be attributable to the recent improvements in infrastructure and cultural attractions to the downtown business district. These changes have led businesses in other towns to relocate to downtown Manchester.”
The final proof comes from National Television events promoting Manchester and New Hampshire as prime sites for the Boston Celtics, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, and WWF Wrestling.
An economic impact study conducted by Southern NH University reported more than $28 million dollars of Direct economic spending in the city of Manchester was attributable to the arena.