Six individuals representing three companies met with Bemidji city staff members Tuesday afternoon as they sought further information on the city's expectations of the firm eventually chosen to manage the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
The afternoon meeting was followed by a site visit to the south shore redevelopment area.
City Manager John Chattin and Community Development Director Rita Albrecht answered questions from men representing Global Spectrum, the firm that manages the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D., and VenuWorks, the firm that manages the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
Rich Siegert, representing Edgewater Group, also attended the meeting. He told the Pioneer following the meeting that the company is interested in being involved in the some aspect of the management of the BREC.
The city has sent out a Request for Proposals to firms interested in managing the BREC. Responses to the RFPs are due by 5 p.m. May 15.
"We hope to get a firm on board this summer," Albrecht said.
The management firm is a key piece of the BREC project because the city is seeking assistance and guidance in multiple areas, such as identifying an appropriate scoreboard and the best model for oversight by the city of the management of the facility, Chattin said.
"There are many, many issues we haven't even tried to resolve yet," Chattin said.
Questions posed from business representatives ranged from the finality of design plans to the relationship between the city and Bemidji State University, whose hockey programs will be the BREC's anchor tenant.
Since construction already is underway, Chattin said the design is set.
Albrecht noted, however, that the city planned for the possible expansion of the convention center in the future. Room has been set aside and the design was planned so shoreline setbacks and other zoning requirements would be met.
"We have anticipated that in the future we might want to add on," she said. "We have sort of a dotted line."
Both Global Spectrum and VenuWorks have experience in managing facilities that have university tenants. The North Dakota State University football team plays at the Fargodome and the University of North Dakota football team competes at the Alerus Center.
All those present recognized the difficulty in working with a university because it is a state institution. Chattin noted that the lease between the city and BSU is 20 years in duration, but the university still has an out, if it needs it.
But, they also praised successful partnerships.
"You've got to build that relationship," said Rob Sobolik, the general manager of the Fargodome.
Chattin also said BSU will need to energize the facility with enthusiastic fans. He appreciated the recent Frozen Four appearance by the BSU's men's team.
"They're going to have to build excitement for this facility," Chattin said. "The hockey program is capable of doing that."
The success of the facility will depend on a successful relationship between the facility owners and the university, said Todd Glickman, with Global Spectrum.
"The tenant has to be healthy and viable," he said.
The details of the lease agreement with BSU were discussed as well.
Stephen Hyman, the executive director of the Alerus Center, asked about the practice schedules of the hockey teams.
"Games will have, obviously, a priority in the arena," Chattin said, "but the practices do not.
"If you book the convention center or a concert, that would take priority over a practice."
Albrecht said the ice would be covered during non-hockey events.
Practices would then be held elsewhere in the city, such as at Neilson-Reise Arena.
"The expectation is that we won't be kicking them out on a regular basis," Chattin said.
The group also discussed the location of the nearest casinos. The closest casino is Palace Casino in Cass Lake, about 14 miles from Bemidji. Also nearby are the larger Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen and the now-being-constructed Red Lake casino, which will be on state Highway 89 about 25 miles from Bemidji.
"We have a number of reasons why we would have an edge over the casinos," Albrecht said, noting a smoke-free environment and better layout.