New Year’s Eve party famously successful

cleblanc@thestate.comJanuary 2, 2013 

Columbia’s second downtown New Year’s Eve party attracted roughly 5,000 more people than the inaugural event in 2011, came in on budget and likely will not need more taxpayer money, one of its organizers said Tuesday.

Sam Johnson, who works in the mayor’s office, said final attendance and financial figures for the Famously Hot New Year’s Eve celebration will be released today.

A third installment this year is “definite,” he said.

Johnson estimates between 24,000 and 26,000 partygoers showed up at the foot of the State House. In 2011, the crowd was about 20,000.

Only one person was arrested, interim Columbia police chief Ruben Santiago said. Last year, 14 people went to jail, he said.

The 2012 event is likely to come in at its roughly $400,000 budget. No more than the $65,000 in public money already allocated by the city and Richland County for the event will be required to pay its bills, Johnson said.

“We probably hit it right on the nail,” he said of the budget.

Last year’s party ran in the red and the city kicked in a $22,500, last-minute infusion. That raised the public price tag to $55,000 of the 2011 event’s $212,593 total cost, according to figures released last summer.

One of the biggest reasons this year’s event came in on budget is that corporate donations reached the projected $180,000 – almost double the $92,500 organizers said they received in a shorter, corporate revenue-raising campaign in 2011, Johnson said.

As figures were being finalized, Johnson said Tuesday he doubts organizers will ask Richland County Council to release $10,000 that had been earmarked if needed beyond the $15,000 the county already contributed to the 2012 event.

City officials designated $50,000 from taxes paid by restaurant and bar patrons to help pay for Monday night’s event. Asked if he expects organizers to request more taxpayer money, as they did last year, Johnson said, “I don’t.”

Alcohol sales also might be up from the previous year, he said.

Preliminary figures from online ticket sales show that visitors came from at least 23 states, perhaps a few more, Johnson said. Last year’s ticket sales show the event attracted partygoers from 23 states, Johnson said.

The city is gathering information from hotels and restaurants to determine more precisely how far visitors traveled and how much money they spent while in town.

Another economic impact study will be conducted, Johnson said. Last year’s event brought in an estimated $1.5 million in hotel and restaurant sales and other activity, according to the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism.

Santiago said 53 officers were assigned to provide security at the party – the same number as last year. The only arrest was a reveler charged with being drunk and disorderly for bothering others at Main and Gervais streets, he said. “The guy was very uncooperative.”

An older man was hurt when he fell just after the midnight fireworks, but his injury was not related to drinking, Santiago said.

About 100 surveillance cameras in the city center helped provide security, he said. Statewide Security, the company that owns those and other cameras in Five Points, allowed a police officer to monitor the cameras during the event and direct officers to where they were needed, Santiago said.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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