The city-owned Casper Events Center likely will be able to attract major acts when it has a contract with a private management company that manages other venues in the region.

"It's very attractive to them to put them in multiple facilities, as opposed to being on an island by yourself and trying to attract those acts," Spectra Venue Management representative Peter Zingoni told Casper City Council at a work session Tuesday.

Spectra has the size, purchasing power, and regional operations in Nampa, Idaho, and Loveland, Colo., to make the Casper Events Center attractive to artists, agents and managers, Zingoni said. "I certainly think you would have that much more of an advantage in a professional management setting."

Including the Idaho and Colorado places, Spectra manages 138 venues around the world including Southeast Asia and Canada, he added.

Council members gave a tentative thumbs-up to City Leisure Service Director Doug Follick to draft a contract with Spectra during the work session.

The discussion about moving to private management began last year when longtime Events Center Director Bud Dovala announced last May that he would be retiring this coming June 1, according to a March 15 memo from Follick to City Manager V.H. McDonald.

Former City Manager John Patterson asked Follick to consider outsourcing the management to a private firm. In October, city officials met with representatives of the Philadelphia-based Spectra, which had been handling the Events Center's ticketing software since 2002. Another venue management company, SMG, then contacted the city but never followed up. Spectra received the city staff recommendation from an unidentified citizens' committee, according to the memo.

Neither the memo, nor Follick on Tuesday, did not give any indication how much a management contract would be.

"We haven't started any negotiation whatsoever," Follick said.

Council members wanted to know if the approximately 20 full-time employees would be able to keep their wages, benefits and especially retirement plans as Spectra took over the operations.

Follick said that would be part of the contract negotiations.

Likewise, Zingoni said Spectra could assist with capital improvements.

The ongoing city subsidies of the Events Center -- $750,000 to $1 million a year -- is a major reason for moving to a private management company, Follick said.

However, that has not been money going down a black hole, he said.

"We have rebuilt that entire facility in the last few years, and all of the promoters and Spectra have noticed that we do keep (a) good building," Follick said.

"We get compliments on it continuously, and that's one of the things that Mr. Dovala has instilled in that group (of employees) up there is a level of service and a level of pride, he said. "And we want to make sure we don't lose that."

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