Operators of the Muskogee Civic Center are hoping a federal grant could help recover thousands of dollars in lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Center director John Cruz said he was seeking a grant for closed site operators (SVOG) through the US Small Business Administration. The SVOG program was created by the Economic Aid for Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Hard-Affected Sites Act, and amended by the US Rescue Plan Act.
âThe entertainment industry has been one of the industries most affected by COVID as all venues have closed for events,â said Cruz.
He said it is difficult to estimate how much revenue the center has lost since it closed.
âMaybe we’re talking about $ 150,000,â Cruz said.
Cruz said the Civic Center gets most of its money from private rentals for banquets and parties. He said in three years, before the pandemic hit, the center has grown from 60 events per year to 300 events.
âThis year we had scheduled over 400 private events, but we had to cancel 175 events,â he said. “Between 150 events were postponed or canceled completely … from March 2020 to March 2021.”
These events included crowd events such as the Shrine Circus, gun shows, bull races and the Bedouin Shrine Classic basketball tournament.
The Civic Center reopened in April after being closed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Early public events, such as the Circus on Ice on April 18, were limited to one-third of the Civic Center’s capacity.
Cruz said in April that the Civic Center began receiving calls regarding private and public events immediately after Muskogee lifted his mask mandate on March 22.
EPIC charter schools rented all four rooms at the Civic Center for 60 days earlier this year to conduct state testing, Cruz said.
âIt actually helped us survive the rough times a bit,â he said.
School banquets, including the Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent’s Academic Honor Banquet, are among the larger private rentals. The banquet did not take place in 2020 but resumed in 2021. The state spelling of Eastern Oklahoma was a city-supported public event, Cruz said.
According to the US Small Business Administration website, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant includes more than $ 16 billion in grants to venue operators, including concert halls, performance venues, cinemas and museums affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eligible applicants can claim grants equal to 45% of their gross income earned, according to the website.
Cruz said the center could qualify for up to $ 87,000 through SVOG. He said the request could take months.
âIf we get it, we could use it right away,â he said.
In the meantime, the center continues to schedule and host private events or public concerts.
Upcoming events include Scott Haggard’s concert on Saturday, a boxing and wrestling match, Cruz said.