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Business owners want ball moved

Chamber looks at fairgrounds
By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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Some 73 Lincoln Way business owners have signed a petition to have the Black & White Ball moved to another location next year. Business owners object to having the ball on Lincoln Way for various reasons including a significant loss in sales revenue for the Saturday that they are asked to close up shop. Ben Asgharzadeh and Margareta Swann, owners of The Golden Swann jewelry store on Lincoln Way, started the petition. Asgharzadeh said he is not against the Black & White Ball, but objects because of alcohol-related behavior after the ball. “The main reason I want to see it moved is because of the alcohol,” Asgharzadeh said Friday. “I want to see any accident prevented before someone’s life is permanently ruined.” In 1989, Asgharzadeh’s former wife and her sister died in a car accident when a drunk driver hit them on the sidewalk on Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights, he said. Seventeen years later on June 16, 2006, Asgharzadeh’s son David committed suicide. “After David’s mother got killed, he got lost in his life, because he was so close to his mom,” Asgharzadeh said. “If his mom was not killed, I believe he would still be alive today. But I don’t blame the Black & White Ball, but it could happen to another family. We all want to prevent that from happening. I know how tough it is to go through that.” Asgharzadeh and his wife Swann would like to see the ball moved to another location, as would 73 other Lincoln Way businesses and 32 residents. “I’m not against the Black & White Ball,” Asgharzadeh said. “It’s the alcohol and what happens afterwards on the streets.” In a letter presented before the Auburn City Council along with signed petitions from 73 business owners and 32 residents, Asgharzadeh and Swann wrote: “Does Auburn want to be known for its drunken ball every year? Where are your family values? If you attend this ball and look into the back streets and alleys by 1 a.m. you will be ashamed to have a business in Auburn.” In addition, Asgharzadeh presented documentation to City Council members that showed his business loses an average $11,000 for each Saturday he must close his jewelry store. Bruce Cosgrove, chief executive officer of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, was asked about Lincoln Way business owners who are losing revenue as a result of the ball. “Anyone who would actually lose money has a legitimate concern,” Cosgrove said. “All businesses have been asked to support the ball and many do. We roughly had 110 businesses through the community who sponsored the Black & White Ball.” One of those sponsors happened to be Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, and roughly eight to 10 of those 110 businesses are not in the immediate Auburn area, Cosgrove said. In September, Cosgrove said a majority of 18 members on the chamber’s board of directors agreed to move the Black & White Ball to a different location in 2009, which may be the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Cosgrove has already had discussions with Greg Hegwer, CEO of the fairgrounds. “We’ve been talking with Greg Hegwer and we’re very close to having a date, but it’s not set yet,” Cosgrove said. Hegwer confirmed that the fairgrounds management is agreeable to hosting the ball if a mutually agreeable date can be found. “It’s looking pretty good,” Hegwer said Friday. “Bruce and I have had a couple of meetings. It is 10 days prior to the fair, but with some rescheduling we will be able to host them. Because it’s close to the fair and close to a major event I want to put it before the board. I think we’re the best location of the ones they’re looking at.” To rent the fairgrounds for the ball would cost roughly $5,000, but the chamber would save money in not having to put up stages, fences and toilets. The fairgrounds would provide fewer security problems and more parking. “It’s a major factor that we want to move the ball,” Cosgrove said. “The fairgrounds is our first choice. We actually wanted to have it there in 2007, but it was not available. Other choices for the ball could be the airport or the area by the chamber’s headquarters, Cosgrove said. For this year’s ball, net profits were down. “Our net profit was short $47,000 compared to last year,” Cosgrove said. “Our total gross was a little over $300,000. We sold overall 400 fewer retail tickets.” Two of the ball’s largest expenses are equipment rental and entertainment, Cosgrove said. Entertainment costs ran $32,000 and equipment rental $65,000 for this year’s ball. After ball receipts were tabulated, an estimated $21,000 was contributed to local Auburn charities, about the same as last year, Cosgrove said. The rest goes to support the Chamber and its local business constituents.