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Mayor Renner Hoping For More From VenuWorks

Ryan Denham
VenuWorks took over arena management duties in April 2016.

The mayor of Bloomington said Tuesday he's not satisfied with progress made by VenuWorks in improving operations at Grossinger Motors Arena.

The company took over from Central Illinois Arena Management in April 2016. Renner acknowledged bookings for that year were already lost, but says the operating support the city pays for the arena remains too high.

"In the past we have had a several hundred thousand dollar subsidy. That's not a good thing. And we will work with them to try and see about bringing that down," said Renner.

Renner said he and aldermen are not satisfied.

"I think they have had enough time to turn some things around. The bookings are another question. The concessions are mystifying to me. I think they have had enough time to turn the concessions around. If somebody wants to pay too much for beer, there should not be a long line. You should have people there ready to take their cash," said Renner.

He said the firm has done some things to recover from the low point of bookings at which they took over.

Renner said VenuWorks can count on a robust discussion at contract renewal time. The contract is for five years, but is renewable in annual increments.

The city operating subsidy last fiscal year was $674,000, and this week the arena received $375,000 more from taxpayers to balance the budget.

VenuWorks explained the $375,000 request in a memo this week to aldermen. The company said it "continues to make solid efforts to improve revenue in the building and to try and offset the current deficit." The arena recently announced upcoming shows featuring Brad Paisley, Cole Swindell, and Judas Priest.

VenuWorks also addressed operational challenges:

Our largest variances in the FY 2018 (current budget) are in the categories of Suite and Commissioned Revenue, where we have struggled to secure new sponsors and suite holders due to lower than expected number of shows, as well as, factors outside of our control including news reporting of the former management company and the hockey team’s refusal to play home games during September and October. In addition, the Arena has experienced a lot of unexpected repairs and replacement expenses, worth more than $30,000, due to negligent maintenance by previous management including equipment repairs for coolers and freezers that are run-down and some that were manufactured 24 years ago, equipment replacement for housekeeping scrubber and vacuum that were unusable, as well as, maintenance to the suite level to improve appearances (repairs and painting).

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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.