From its inception, the Performing Arts and Event Center has been intended to be a major regional tourist attraction and economic development driver for Federal Way.
The 716-seat PAEC officially opened its doors Aug. 19, 2017, at 31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way. After one year in business, the nearly $32 million facility — the most expensive project of its kind in city history — has seen an average of about 50 percent attendance at shows so far.
But where are the attendees coming from? Apparently, no one at the city is keeping an accurate count.
Tickets are scanned at the box office, said city spokesman Tyler Hemstreet, who provided the Mirror with a list of ZIP codes on file for 1,000 attendees. While Hemstreet said the list contains attendees from events in the 2017-2018 season, the list does not represent the total number of attendees in the inaugural season because tickets were not scanned at all 30-plus events.
Based on the ZIP codes on the list of 1,000 attendees, at least 32 percent came from Federal Way ZIP codes 98003, 98023 and 98063. At least 30 percent came from a ZIP codes in Pierce County including the Tacoma, Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Gig Harbor areas, and at least 10 percent came from the Auburn and unincorporated King County areas. A handful of visitors claimed an Oregon ZIP code. The list also logs a few out-of-state visitors from Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
“The more visitors that the PAEC can draw to Federal Way, the better. Our vision for the PAEC is that visitors are coming to grab dinner at a local restaurant before the show, then perhaps staying at a hotel in town if they need to,” Hemstreet said. “With the construction of light rail in a few years, that will make it even easier for visitors throughout King County to attend an event at the PAEC.”
City leaders are hopeful that the PAEC will be a catalyst for economic development in Federal Way, including the proposed hotel that has yet to be built on the adjacent property; the city is struggling to remove the easement currently over the hotel site.
Some residents have voiced irritation online over the apparent lack of marketing geared toward them, with comments such as “I’ve never seen an advertisement and I live here.” Another resident posted: “I didn’t even know this existed until I drove by it on accident and thought it was the new 24 Hour Fitness or something.”
Hemstreet said marketing campaigns for the facility have been local and have focused mostly in the Federal Way, Auburn and Tacoma areas. For the 2017-18 season, there was some print and web marketing done through local news outlets such as the Federal Way Mirror along with social media outreach, Hemstreet said.
“By engaging our many community partners such as Federal Way Public Schools, Communities in Schools of Federal Way and local service clubs and nonprofits which host events at the PAEC, we hope that residents attending a private event at the PAEC will leave with a positive impression of the venue and want to come back to attend a performance,” he said.
Hemstreet also said that since Spectra has taken over management of the PAEC, effective Aug. 1, the city is hopeful that this perceived growth from outside Federal Way will continue.
“We believe [Spectra] will take the PAEC to the next level when it comes to drawing visitors to Federal Way as well as catering to local groups and organizations who want to utilize it,” he said.
The most successful events in the 2017-18 season, according to records, were the Korean American Day Celebration, which was attended by an estimated 808 people, almost 100 more than the total seating number, and the 2018 State of the City Address, which was attended by 689 people.