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City plans new start for Grossinger Motors Arena

 The $29 million dollar arena opened 15 years ago as the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. It's now known as Grossinger Motors Arena.
Emily Bollinger
The idea of Grossinger Motors Arena being sold is off the table, says Bloomington's city manager.

Bloomington will change tactics in managing Grossinger Motors Arena. Before the pandemic, city leaders had talked about selling the arena, but City Manager Tim Gleason said Tuesday that's no longer the case.

"I have a stronger opinion today, and it is in large part based on what is happening in the community that we can have a viable entertainment site for this community," said Gleason.

Gleason's predecessor asked the downtown venue to book acts that were likely to turn a profit, and said the facility needed to break even — thought it never has. Gleason said he does not want to return to that policy.

“That's a rather short-sighted approach," said Gleason.

Instead, the city will now try to book events based on the scope of economic impact on the community.

"There are more things to take into consideration than just the act and how much it's going to return in those four walls of the arena. There is a larger impact that we were shortsighted in the past," said Gleason.

He did not say what level of taxpayer subsidy is reasonable, though that conversation has happened among staff. The city is drafting a job description for a general manager of both the arena and the the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Bloomington will likely hire a talent booking firm to line up the acts at the arena, said Gleason, noting the city has held off activating the arena until now in the event the site is needed again as a COVID-19 vaccination center.

“But I think we finally see light at the end of the tunnel if we're not standing directly in the doorway. So, I've got to provide entertainment," said Gleason.

The question remains how people will behave, whether they will still be leery of attending because of concern about the coronavirus, or whether they are clamoring again to go to in-person events. Gleason said there's evidence of the latter.

"We had two shows in October that were well attended, Lauren Daigle and Casting Crowns. So, I think people are ready to safely return to a life of normalcy," said Gleason.

Gleason said he would love to have a summer concert and fall series of events.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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