New Management Firm For Bloomington Coliseum | WGLT

New Management Firm For Bloomington Coliseum

Mar 23, 2016

Credit Ralph Weisheit

With the contract to manage U-S Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington winding down to an April 1 deadline, the city has announced a new manager for its venue.

City Manager David Hales said VenuWorks is based in Ames, Iowa and manages 52 mainly Midwestern facilities.

If the Bloomington Town Council approves VenuWorks as the coliseum manager Monday night, a 90-day transition period will start, with a 5-year contract following shortly after. At an afternoon news conference, Mayor Tari Renner said why go through an extended transition period with the former managers, when the city instead can get a management team to come in and hit the ground running.

VenuWorks Chief Financial Officer Tim Sullivan said VenuWorks is a family run company, with the interest of the community at heart.

"We really focus on the patron experience," said Sullivan. "So from the second you buy a ticket to when you're at an event,  you're enjoying top notch concessions and walking to your car thinking I can't wait to get back to the coliseum."

After years of concern over transparency and accountability, the city and current operator Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM) declined to renew their deal after it expire.

The Coliseum lost $1.5 million last year, though in a couple years it did turn a small operating profit. The City owned facility has been a public issue since 2004 when voters in an advisory referendum opposed creating the structure and the city council moved ahead with it.

Some public officials at the time argued the facility would turn a profit. Others who predicted the city would need to subsidize operations beyond debt service have been more correct.

In VenuWorks proposed contract, they will only receive 5% of gross concession fees, compared to 68% in the CIAM contract. The proposed contract also greatly reduces their sales and naming right commissions.

Sullivan also noted that they are open to any business interested in the re-naming of the Coliseum, but there are no current plans.

Tourism and Development officials have generally praised the Coliseum for its positive impact on downtown Bloomington and community tax revenues.

*VenuWorks will earn an annual management fee of $114,000
*The contract will include "disincentives," or lower commissions paid to VenuWorks if mutually-agreed upon budget goals are not met.
*The city may terminate the contract after three years without cause.