That’s what SMG does, it manages convention centers, stadiums and other such large multi-purpose facilities. As it has been doing that line of work since 1977, SMG must have done a good job for some of its clients along the way.
In the STYLE article the thrust is on whether or not the bidding for the contract should have been an open process, or closed, as it apparently was in this case.
Joel Katz, former executive director of the Carpenter Center, weighs in:
“SMG was awarded a no-bid contract that taxpayers now cannot learn about,” writes Katz, who was ousted as vice president of marketing and programming for the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation in May 2005.Writer Don Harrison adds his two-cents-worth:
Don Harrison, co-founder of the popular blog SaveRichmond.com, says “the no-bid contract says everything. It’s just another in a series of eyebrow-raising incidents associated with this thing.”Others are more upbeat about the news. Click here to read the piece.
OK, the no-bid thing bothers me, too. I agree with what Joel and Don say. But what also bothers me about this news is what Biegelsen touches on here:
There is good reason to question the abilities of SMG, which has a spotty record in its 23 years of managing the Richmond Coliseum. In the late 1990s, operational problems and financial mismanagement had the Coliseum reeling. After years of decline in the number of bookings, a 2002 city audit of SMG’s management revealed significant potential savings.So, SMG may be good at running some venues but maybe not all.
There was a night SMG looked about as bad as it could get at managing the Coliseum. On Nov. 28, 2001, a crowd of 11,666 and a national television audience were witness to an infamous truncated basketball game; it ended moments into the second half because the floor was deemed unplayable.
It was unplayable because of condensation, caused by the ice under the floor (for hockey games) and the convergence of unseasonable warm weather.
However, SMG had ample warning that the floor would sweat -- it had happened before to a lesser extent -- and yet nothing was done about it. So, the premiere sporting event of that year’s basketball season in Richmond -- (No. 22) Michigan St. vs. (No 9) Virginia -- was kaput.
That night I was seated on press row. After the cancellation I asked the spokesman for SMG -- given the Indian Summer weather -- why they didn't melt the ice and refreeze it afterward for the hockey game, scheduled for two day later. He literally ran out of the media room, rather than answer my follow-up questions.
Now SMG will be running the Landmark (formerly the Mosque) and the Carpenter Center (formerly the Loew's). They are theaters. The sort of acts going into those venues will be quite different than the sort traditionally booked for the Coliseum. No circus. No basketball tournaments. No tractor-pulls.
It takes a different brand of finesse to book acts, and make money, for such theaters. And, it takes a good feel for the local market.
Is an international management company likely to have such a rare feel?
Moreover, I believe the City of Richmond ought to hire its own management team for those theaters and probably for the Coliseum, as well. There are people living in Richmond today who have the background to be considered for such work. No doubt, there are plenty who’d be willing to move here to run one of those beautiful old theaters.
In this age of outsourcing, it may seem better to pay experts from Philadelphia to run Richmond’s publicly-owned show biz venues. But I question that wisdom. I think it is just easier; it serves to cover bureaucratic butts. I’ll bet you it costs a lot more money than it should.
Richmond should have a department with a boss who oversees the running of the Coliseum, the Carpenter Center, and so forth. Each of those venues should have its own house manager. All of those people should live in the Richmond area and be on the City‘s payroll. And, it won't hurt if some of them know the Richmond market and have connections to local entertainers.
The City of Richmond has had an awkward relationship with show biz for decades. Intended, or not, it has done much to squelch the local entertainment scene over the years.
It’s high time for all that to change. Wouldn't you like to hear the mayoral candidates speak to this issue?