When the Crown Complex wasshut down by the COVID-19 pandemic , the staff decided to help the community rather than sit on the sidelines, its general manager said.
Cumberland County Commissioner Glenn Adams said venues like the Crown Complex are important to have in cities like Fayetteville.
“I’m an arts person; I love plays, I love musicals and all of that, and I think it’s important for us to be able to have a place to do that,” he said. I think it just enhances creativity with kids and even for the community.”
Before COVID-19 going to a show or sporting event at the Crown Complex was just something you did. Now, attendees want to make sure they’re safe.
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Seth Benalt, general manager of the complex, said that during the 2018-2019 fiscal year the complex had an attendance of about 440,000 people and hosted about 90 events.
The following fiscal year, which included the temporary shutdown of the entertainment complex, it had an attendance of about 300,000 and about 120 unique events. The shutdown was from mid-March 2020until about April or May 2021.
Yet while the venue as unable to host entertainment, the staff found ways through the pandemic, to still serve the community.
“When the complex shut down during COVID and the county health department and emergency services came in and decided they were going to use the facility to run a vaccination clinic. We could have easily just turned the keys over to them and let them run their clinic,” Benalt said.
Instead, he said, staff worked to support the health department during the clinics.
“We did whatever we could do at no cost to the county or the health department or anyone so that we could help service the community.”
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In addition to helping with the vaccination clinics, the complex was also used by local food pantries to distribute food.
“We service the community — a, by providing good, wholesome entertainment of all types for folks that they want, but then we also try and get out into the community and be active, productive members of the community,” Benalt said.
Adams said he thinks the complex did an excellent job throughout the pandemic.
“I think that they’ve done the best job they can under the circumstances,” he said. “I think there’s no dissatisfaction with what they’ve done.”
As the complex spent time helping the community, the entertainment side was almost non-existent. During the 2020-21 fiscal year, the complex had about 40,000 people in attendance for the 15 events it held.
Benalt said the complex has had a hard time during the pandemic when it comes to scheduling shows.
“So this has been a really tough year; shows getting rescheduled and not playing off on their original dates or losing shows and having to fill them with other shows,” he said.
Adams said he has concerns for the whole county as it pushes through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am worried. I’m worried for the whole county because we just never know what’s going to happen with this pandemic,” he said.
The main focus for the Crown, in addition to entertainment, became sanitization and keeping guests healthy.
“Our priority is to provide a clean, healthy and safe environment,” Benalt said.
The complex’s current fiscal year is already looking better than its last. From July 1 through the end of November, about 180,000 people have attended its 40 events.
Staff writer Akira Kyles can be reached at email@example.com.