Summerfest totes up financial losses after pandemic canceled 2020 events

Crowds fill the concourse between stages at Summerfest in Milwaukee on Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

The Big Gig is dealing with red ink as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc., which runs Summerfest, projects a loss of $10.4 million before depreciation in 2020 and has seen its cash balances plunge to an all-time low.

The financial results were not unexpected since this year’s Summerfest was canceled because of the pandemic.

The information was revealed Wednesday during a joint meeting of the organization’s executive and financial committee. The full board will vote on the budget later this month.

Cash balances are at $5.1 million in 2020 and are projected to be around $3.8 million in 2021. The organization’s current policy is to keep 25% of cash operating expenses in reserve, which would be $14 million.

Summerfest’s organizers plan to rebuild the reserves over the next several years.

In 2021, Summerfest anticipates net operating revenue of $14.5 million. That’s about $1.9 million less than 2019. Summerfest anticipates a potential loss of corporate support due to the pandemic, plus increases in marketing, entertainment and the cost of contracts.

The proposed budget also assumes that there won’t be any large gathering restrictions next year because of the pandemic.

Summerfest’s rebuilt amphitheater is mostly completed. The final cost is projected to be $51.3 million, $1 million less than budgeted.

The meeting went into private session to discuss financing and contractual matters but no actions were taken.

Summerfest has not yet announced its full schedule for next year. 

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