The city's annual $220,000 grant to the McConnell Arts Center is expected to remain steady next year, even as attendance numbers continue to rise sharply.

The city's annual $220,000 grant to the McConnell Arts Center is expected to remain steady next year, even as attendance numbers continue to rise sharply.

Thus far this year, more than 36,000 people have visited the MAC. That's an increase of 51 percent over 2012, MAC director Jon Cook told Worthington City Council on Nov. 18.

Because 90 percent of those visitors come from outside Worthington, big dollars are rolling into the city, not only being spent at the MAC but also at restaurants, shops and other businesses, Cook said.

Based on data supplied by an organization called Americans for the Arts, the average visitor spends $23 during a trip to the MAC, he said. That means the city receives a $398,000 return on its $220,000 investment, according to an annual report presented to council.

The city's share of the arts center's budget has been $220,000 each year since 2011. With the MAC budget increasing, the city's share is decreasing.

In 2011, the city's share of the $552,000 budget equaled 39 percent. In 2013, it was 29 percent. The projected budget for 2014 is $770,600, with the city contributing 28 percent.

The MAC also receives other public funds, money from investments, donations and money from ticket sales, rentals and class fees.

Only 8 percent of people who attended events at the MAC this year were from Worthington; 3 percent were from the 43235 ZIP code area, which is the largest area of the Worthington school district but is technically in Columbus.

Most visitors -- 61 percent -- came from Columbus. Others came from Dublin, Westerville, Powell, Lewis Center and other areas of Ohio.

The MAC averages 130 visitors a day. It imposes no charge to enter the center, where exhibits of various types of art always are on display.

Thus far this year, 7,213 tickets to performances have been sold -- up 3 percent over last year.

Forty-two corporations and other groups have rented space at the center in 2013.

One reason for the growth in visits this year was the expansion of the summer and school break programming for children and adults, according to the report.

Not only did more people visit the center during the summer, but many of those also continued to enroll in classes or programs during the school year.

Programming also expanded with the formation of the center's own professional community orchestra, which presented its first concert this month.

MAC goals for 2014 include continuing to build audiences with a focus on children, youth, teens and young families; supporting individual creative culture by fostering career growth and exploration for performing, visual, musical and digital artists; and expanding programs outside the MAC's walls.

One of those programs will be the Ohio Chautauqua, which will be presented on the lawn of the arts center next summer. It will be co-sponsored by Worthington Libraries.

"I think we're doing a pretty fantastic thing here in Worthington," Cook told council.

The $220,000 grant is included in the proposed city budget, which council is expected to adopt in December.