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Charleston Business

Bon Secours Wellness Arena’s Economic Impact Continues to Grow After 25 Years

Sep 12, 2023 04:32PM ● By David Dykes

The Bon Secours Wellness Arena, celebrating its 25th year this month, has established itself as a leading sports and entertainment venue, attracting a diverse range of high-profile events including family shows, concerts, sports championships, and conventions. 

And continued support from Bon Secours St. Francis Health System allows the arena to thrive and contribute to the vibrant cultural fabric of Greenville.

General Manager Beth Paul has spent much of her career at the arena, starting in 1999 as accounting manager at the BI-LO Center. She left in 2001 to work at an arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, returning to Greenville in 2005. 

Paul worked as director of finance, assistant general manager, and interim general manager before becoming general manager in 2015.

The Greenville Arena District is a special purpose district created by the General Assembly of South Carolina in 1940. Governed by a board of trustees appointed by the governor, the district manages its facilities to provide educational, cultural, athletic, and convention center services. 

The primary business activity of the Greenville Arena District Fund is operating/managing the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, a 15,000-seat-capacity sports and entertainment venue located in Greenville, S.C. 

The primary purpose of the arena is to provide quality entertainment to the residents of the Upstate of South Carolina. The district generates revenue primarily through:  

Building rental/event promotion, food, beverage, merchandise sales, parking fees, taxes, ticketing surcharges, and event sponsorships (event income, net).  

Property tax and accommodation fee revenue. 

Premium seating and sponsorship sales. 

Other income (i.e., intergovernmental revenues, naming right revenues, management fees, etc.). 

A portion of the arena’s revenues consists of net event income, which the arena generates by renting the building to acts and/or promoters for events and through its own event promotion. Under the rental scenario, the arena will lease the building to an act/promoter for an event for a set rental fee plus show expenses, and the arena is not financially at-risk.

At times, the arena will promote or co-promote events. That means that the arena is responsible for all aspects of the show and that the arena is at risk financially. The management of the arena evaluates each event and pursues the financial model that is believed to enhance revenue for the building.  

The arena hosted 121 events for 2022, compared to 70 events for 2021, and 102 events for 2020. 

An independent auditor’s report from the CPA and advisory firm of Greene Finney Cauley, LLP, showed net event income for 2022, 2021, and 2020 was approximately $8,081,000, $1,711,000, and $3,002,000, respectively. Net event income increased approximately $6,370,000, or 372 percent, in 2022 primarily due to the district returning to a full year of pre-pandemic level of events after the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The district hosted more concerts, sporting events, and family shows and had higher attendance per event as the district functioned with limited capacities in 2021. Net event income decreased approximately $1,291,000, or 43 percent, in 2021 primarily due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The county collects the district’s accommodation fees and the property tax revenues. Net accommodation fees for the years ended June 30, 2022, 2021, and 2020, were approximately $2,077,000, $2,079,000, and $2,062,000, respectively. 

Net accommodations fees decreased in 2022 by approximately $2,000 and increased in 2021 by approximately $17,000 respectively, as the amount retained by the district is only those amounts that are sufficient to cover the debt service required for the Series 2012 A, 2012 B, and 2013 A debt (with all remaining amounts being annually refunded to the county and city). 

As of June 30, 2022, 2021 and 2020, the district had excess accommodations fees owed to the city and county (in excess of debt service requirements) of approximately $1,557,000, $845,000, and $199,000, respectively.  

Each year in March, the district remits the excess accommodations fees back to the city and county. 

The arena also engages in the selling of premium seating at the venue by means of club seats and suites. The arena enters into sales agreements with patrons and businesses for these club seats and suites and the terms of these agreements are anywhere from one to seven years. Also, the arena generates revenue through the selling of sponsorships to local, regional, and national businesses. 

Sponsorship sales can range from the right to advertise via signage in the building to being an exclusive provider of food and beverage products for the building during events.  

The operating expenses of the arena consist primarily of payroll and benefits, utilities and communications, repairs and maintenance, and insurance. Many of the expenses of the building are non-discretionary and are subject to an annual budget process that is performed each fiscal year and is subject to approval by the district’s board of trustees.  

The district’s operating revenues increased approximately $8,951,000, or 142 percent, in 2022 primarily due to an increase in net event income of approximately $6,370,000 and an increase in club seats, suites and sponsor fees of approximately $2,195,000. 

Auditors said the increase in net event income is due to the district hosting a pre-pandemic level of events including a full slate of concerts, sporting events, and family shows in 2022. The district was limited both in the number of events and in event capacities for events in 2021. 

The district hosted the first full capacity, post pandemic, event in late July 2021. The increase in club seats, suites and sponsor fees of approximately $2,195,000 is primarily due to the district postponing the majority of invoicing and revenue recognition for suite, sponsor, and club seat owners for approximately sixteen months during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The district received approximately $3,505,000 in nonoperating revenue through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.  

The district’s 2022 operating expenses increased approximately $3,138,000, or 47 percent primarily due to increases in general and administrative expenses of approximately $2,892,000 and depreciation expense of approximately $245,000.

As the governing body of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the Greenville Arena District announced renewal of its naming rights partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. An extension of the partnership for an additional five years will ensure that the award-winning arena will continue to be known as Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Officials said the renewed partnership running until 2029 solidifies the ongoing collaboration between the community partners and reinforces their commitment to providing exceptional experiences for fans, athletes, and artists alike.  

Matt Caldwell, market president of Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, expressed his excitement about the extended partnership: “It’s been nearly a decade since we took over the naming rights of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, and it’s been a fantastic partnership that continues to be a source of pride. Together with General Manager Beth Paul and her staff at the arena, we’ve continued to keep wellness as the central focus of this partnership – hosting important health screenings and community programs such as Well Walkers in addition to providing educational events like the annual Human Trafficking Symposium.”  

Said Paul: “We are proud of our long-standing partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, and they share in our commitment to a first-class fan experience and a long-standing commitment to our community. The Bon Secours Wellness Arena has long been a hub of entertainment in Greenville, and we are now at our 25th anniversary milestone – we are proud to enter the next chapter of community impact, together with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.” 

As part of the renewal, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System’s branding will continue to be prominently featured throughout the arena, ensuring widespread recognition of its commitment to the Greenville community, officials said. The partnership will continue to deliver community events such as Well-Walkers, health-screenings, and other wellness-oriented programs. 

Since the original agreement in 2013, officials said Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has demonstrated unwavering support for the Greenville community, making a positive impact through their dedication to health care and wellness. Extension of the naming rights partnership underscores their continued commitment to position the arena and the city of Greenville as a premier sports and entertainment destination, the officials said. 

Paul says she and her staff have stayed focused on building maintenance, modernization, and technology advances to ensure the best artist and customer experience.

“The building was initially very well engineered and well designed, and so that’s worked to our advantage over the years,” she says. “The bones of the building are in really great shape, especially to be 25 years old.”