Bloomington aldermen were curious but cautious Monday night on whether the Grossinger Motors Arena management company should also take over the city’s performing arts venue.
The Bloomington City Council heard a proposal for VenuWorks, which began running the arena in April 2016, to begin running the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts too. The city would pay VenuWorks $3,000 monthly to run the BCPA, under the proposal. VenuWorks says the change would save the city around $300,000 annually, primarily though personnel who could serve both city-owned venues.
VenuWorks CEO Steven Peters said that the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts is currently at risk. He said his firm can bring in more events.
“A promoter rents the hall, there's revenue coming to the venue, but you have more programming," said Peters. "Maybe six to eight more events a year, but that could make a big difference. It could mean another $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 per year to the bottom line of the BCPA.”
Peters emphasized fiscal transparency, likely referencing the current fraud charges against the former managers at Grossinger Motors Arena, previously called the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The five former Coliseum managers face 111 criminal counts of fraud, theft, money laundering, and other charges. They’ve pleaded not guilty.
In its proposal to take over the BCPA, VenuWorks said its locations are “subject to internal financial audits which test the effectiveness and efficiency of controls.” Monthly and annual financial statements are “considered property of the client” (the city) and are available for review at any time, VenuWorks said.
“Our financial reporting is transparent and our accountability to the client unfettered,” VenuWorks said, referring to its in-house food and beverage services. (The Coliseum fraud case largely centers around the previous management company’s in-house food and beverage company.)
Ward 3 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe said the BCPA exists as a community service, not as a profit-maker. Mwilambwe said he wants the city to attract people from all economic classes to the BCPA.
“If you bring in an entity that's going to manage it, and has more of a for-profit focus, they would have a tendency to making profits as opposed to the quality of shows," said Mwilambwe. "And what I heard from them is (that’s) not what they're going to do at all.”
Peters said VenuWorks would prioritize the city's opinion on what entertainment and activities to bring to the BCPA.
Peters stressed VenuWorks can save the city money by managing the facility. The city spent $1.1 million last year on personnel costs for the BCPA, including all full-time and part-time salaries and benefits. VenuWorks said jointly managing the BCPA and arena would save $200,000 in personnel costs annually, as staff members serve both venues and coordinate bookings.
No formal action was taken Monday night. A vote could come at a future meeting.
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