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Officials Hope Star Center Turning Around

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A string of community and sporting events and some high profile entertainment has brought visitors flocking by the thousand to Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center, spurring hopes of a long-awaited turnaround in its ailing finances.

The recent eight-performance run of “Dralion” by the world famous Cirque du Soleil troupe was the second highest grossing show in the venue’s 5 1/2-year history, with ticket sales of $921,482 and total attendance of 16,808, Rio Rancho’s Convention and Visitors Bureau director Matt Geisel told city councilors recently.

Revenue to the city from a surcharge on tickets, concessions and merchandise sold for the shows was $84,401.

The highest grossing show was Walking With Dinosaurs in 2010. Tickets sales were $1,026,392 from the 26,639 people that attended over its nine-performance run.

Geisel said the center has had a busy schedule since December and the pace will continue through July.

Several thousand people attended the Winterfest and Taste of Rio Rancho community events. The New Mexico Stars indoor football team’s first game on Feb. 26 drew 3,000 people. Their second game, against the Allen Wranglers, whose team included former NFL superstar Terrell Owens, drew 6,000. An appearance by comedian Jeff Dunham on March 14 brought a sell-out crowd of 6,139, Geisel said.

He is cautiously optimistic that the busy lineup in recent months and future entertainment like the punk rock band Rise Against in April, Jersey Shore reality star DJ Pauly D in May and the major community event Pork N’Brew in July, will signal the beginning of a turnaround for the center.

“We’re very excited about the quantity, quality and diversity of events. I think it’s a launching pad to grow and move the building forward,” Geisel said.

Global Spectrum, a Comcast subsidiary, manages the center, but the city owns it.

The center has lost money since it opened and Rio Rancho spends about $3 million a year to cover operating costs and debt it sold to build the venue.

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