Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Only one firm applies to take over city-owned entertainment venues

Chilhowee Park in E.Knoxville.
The international venue management firm the city hired to in an emergency pinch to oversee the daily operations at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum and Chilhowee Park was the only company to submit a proposal to take over the venues full time.

The deadline to submit a proposal was late February, and only SMG applied for the job, said city spokesman Jesse Mayshark.

At this point, though, details about the bid will remain sealed until the contract is negotiated, he said.
But, the existing contract expires at the end of June and officials “would like to get a new one in place by then,” according to Mayshark.

Under the plan, the company must keep the venues' 30 or so employees on board for a 60-day period.

“We’ve also encouraged (employees) who want to remain city employees to look for positions in the city and a number of them have been able to get positions in the city in other departments,” Mayshark said.

Working for the city enables the employees to keep city-provided benefits and pensions.

The city hired SMG on an emergency basis last October to oversee the three venues. The company at the time managed the Knoxville Convention Center.

The firm prior to October earned $250,000 but that was for only the convention center. The firm did not charge the city for the services under the emergency contract.

The emergency contract came less than a month after the city fired thee Coliseum employees and the facility’s general manager retired after officials discovered payroll irregularities.

Officials at the time noted that during SMG’s tenure overseeing the convention center, the facility has cut operation costs by $1 million.

Officials also suggested that a private firm might be able to use its professional connections to bring in new and more events to the facilities.

The Knoxville Convention Center averages 240 events per year and has welcomed more than 3 million visitors since it opened in 2002.

The city’s Auditorium and Coliseum featured more than 160 performances last year and brought in almost 250,000 people. Events include Ice Bears hockey games, Disney on Ice, concerts, Knoxville Pops, dance recitals, school productions, STEP shows and professional wrestling.

Chilhowee Park receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, although the majority of them attend the Tennessee Valley Fair in September. Other events include a variety of animal, antique, gun and car shows, as well as a Remote Area Medical patient care events Xfinity Christmas; and the Eighth of August celebration.

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