BEMIDJI-The next executive director for the Sanford Center is no stranger to Bemidji or the facility for that matter.

On Tuesday, the Tiffany Vickaryous-Hubbard was named the new executive director of the city-owned arena, promoted from her position as associate executive director. The hire was announced during a meeting of the facility's board of directors by executives from VenuWorks, the Ames, Iowa-based company managing the building.

Tiffany Vickaryous-Hubbard
Tiffany Vickaryous-Hubbard

Vickaryous-Hubbard will be the Sanford Center's sixth director overall. The city-owned 193,000 square-foot building on Lake Bemidji's south side opened in 2010 and includes an arena and conference center.

"It's known to all of us that there have been a number of people serving in this capacity," VenuWorks Executive Vice President Joseph Romano said. "There is significant interest on everyone's part that the individual be committed to building the community, and willing to make a long term commitment. That certainly fit well within Tiffany's interest and her skillset."

Vickaryous-Hubbard, 38, has lived in Bemidji and worked at the Sanford Center for the past two years.

Vickaryous-Hubbard previously worked at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., as the director of food and beverage. That facility previously was also managed by VenuWorks. And coming to Bemidji seemed like a natural fit, she said.

"I was born in Baudette, Minnesota, and both sides of my family are from Warroad, so I'm a northern Minnesota girl," she told the Pioneer.

Along with her experience in Grand Forks, Vickaryous-Hubbard's educational background is in hospitality and tourism, along with meeting and event management. She studied at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn., and completed a venue management program through the International Association of Venue Managers.

Vickaryous-Hubbard succeeds Jeff Kossow, who was executive director from September 2016 through June 20. Kossow announced he was stepping down from the position in April for another job in Kennewick, Wash, outside of the event industry.

Kossow succeeded Mike Cronin in the role, who was in the position from April-August 2016. Cronin had replaced Curtis Webb, who was in charge of the Sanford Center from late 2012 through April 2016.

Before Webb, the facility was helmed by Roger Swanson, who held the position from December 2011-August 2012, and Bob LeBarron, who lead the facility from construction through October 2011.

Because of turnover in the position, the Bemidji City Council implored VenuWorks to take longevity into account during the hiring process.

"We had about 24 applicants that came in and about nine of them were from outside our industry, so we didn't look at those too closely," said Russell Ferguson, vice president of VenuWorks' food and beverage services. "That left us with 15 viable ones. After we met with the city, we knew their priorities would be longevity and a person who understood the community. We felt strongly that it was a good avenue to pursue."

"As we went through this process, we had people applying internally and externally," Romano said. "We went down to 10, then to five and finally to three."

Pat Welle, a member of the Sanford Center's Board of Directors, said, "I'm really glad you received city input. I think having the familiarity, along with already having networked with people in the community is really good."

During the meeting, the board requested their consensus of full support for Vickaryous-Hubbard's hire be recorded in the minutes. According to Romano, the hire took effect immediately after the announcement at the meeting.

Following the meeting, Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews said Vickaryous-Hubbard will be introduced as the new director to the City Council on July 1. The council approved a contract in April 2018 for VenuWorks to manage the facility through 2024 at a cost of $9,500 per month.

In 2018, the Sanford Center had an operating loss of $421,734, with a recorded attendance of 115,217. The facility also recorded an economic impact of $17.7 million on the Bemidji region last year, according to documents.