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TaxSlayer Center losses due to coronavirus could put taxpayers on the hook

The arena is facing a $2-million loss due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

MOLINE, Ill. — Under Governor J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan for the state, venues like the TaxSlayer Center would open in the last phase, Phase 5. The state is currently in Phase 3, with gatherings of more than 10 people still prohibited.

Mullen said Illinois' slower pace towards reopening has cost him with performers moving to venues in Iowa:

'When the [Mississippi Valley] Fairgrounds says they can do it, you can't blame [the performers.] They’re gonna go over there. We are losing venues constantly. We have weddings scheduled all spring and summer, now those people can do their events in Iowa."

He said the losses could amount to  $2 million dollar loss this fiscal year. 

The TaxSlayer Center, created as a quasi-governmental entity and opened in 1993, has never had to rely on tax dollars thanks to sufficient funding from its own operation, he explained, while most other arenas rely heavily on local tax support. 

But he added, "Losing income caused by this pandemic, if it were to continue for an extended period of time, could change that."

The impact goes far beyond the arena.

"We represent about $80 to $100 million in economic impact in the Quad Cities with the events we do, annually," he said.

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The impact is being felt down the block, at Element, an extended stay hotel that caters to business travelers, said General Manager Nick Holke.

"On the weekends where we don’t have those corporate travelers, these leisure events, like concerts, they really do help out," Holke said. "You can sell before and after the concert shows."

Holke said summer time was peak season for area hotels and Element would be at full capacity every day. But with COVID-19, the hotel is only at 35 percent capacity.

Under the Illinois restrictions, Mullen said he has few options to bring business to the TaxSlayer Center. He is instead working with a coalition of other Illinois venues on reopening protocols he hopes will alleviate state leaders' concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

"We have to totally rethink, when we reopen, how are we going to reopen."

"We are working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council and we want to come out with a certification that sets standards of protocols and also training for employees and equipment, tests, making sure we’re held to a high standard so that people feel comfortable coming back in," he said. "It’s kind of like elite certifications for green buildings."