The city-owned arena in downtown Bloomington has new managers and a new name. Does it deserve a new chance to win over its critics?
That question emerged Monday as the Grossinger Motors Arena management company, VenuWorks, reported a larger-than-expected $673,518 operating loss for the fiscal year that ended April 30.
VenuWorks blamed several factors, including a “rough transition” from the arena’s previous managers, Central Illinois Arena Management (CIAM). VenuWorks also accused CIAM of leaving the city with an “under-utilized” fall calendar with very few events.
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said his goal is for the arena to one day break even, but he stressed that its $11.2 million economic impact in Bloomington-Normal is another key metric.
Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas, appearing with Renner on GLT’s Sound Ideas on Tuesday, said the venue’s new name and managers are an opportunity to rebrand.
“We’re rebranding. We’re starting fresh. We have a new management company, we have a new name, we have a new image, so we can really reset expectations and really build excitement about having this within our community,” said Buragas.
She added: “When we have full shows and popular country bands coming in, we have people in downtown. They are buying things. They are spending money in our community, which has a significant impact on our financial success in our city.”
While VenuWorks blamed transition costs, capital expenses, and CIAM’s light schedule, Renner said not everything is out of their control. For example, lines at concession stands are too long, he said. The arena reported food and beverage sales of nearly $1 million last year.
“We don’t need excuses. We need results. We need answers, especially since this involves a considerable amount of money,” said Renner.
VenuWorks noted these concession issues in its report to aldermen Monday.
“As the (new point-of-sale) system became more reliable and the staff more proficient in using it, VenuWorks saw improvement in sales at all events, culminating in the highest sales of the year at the Chris Stapleton concert on April 29 with more than $125,000 in food and beverage sales,” VenuWorks reported.
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