Bemidji City Council to consider firm for Sanford Center management transition

The Bemidji City Council on Monday will consider proposals from two firms which, if hired, would assist in selecting a new management option for the Sanford Center.

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BEMIDJI -- An opportunity will be on the table Monday to initiate the search for the Sanford Center's next management company.

On the agenda for the Bemidji City Council's second October meeting, officials will review proposals from two firms, which would assist the city in the selection process. The two firms are Convention, Sports and Leisure International, or CSL, and Hunden Strategic Partners.

The potential action comes nearly a month after the council voted to initiate the termination of its contract with the Iowa-based management company VenuWorks . The company had been managing the facility since it opened in 2010, and the council approved a new contract in 2018.

However, several council members expressed interest in September about considering new management. With the termination order, VenuWorks will manage the Sanford Center through March 2022.

Should the council hire a firm Monday, the selected company will be responsible for reviewing:


  • Event characteristics
  • Historical information
  • Attendance numbers
  • Staffing
  • Operating expenses and revenues
  • Long-term planning
  • Proper management structures

The firm will also assist with negotiating and selecting a new management company. According to city documents, staff will recommend the city hire CSL.
A 193,000-square-foot event facility, the Sanford Center contains an arena with more than 4,000 seats, serving as the home of Bemidji State's hockey programs. On an annual basis, the city invests hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover operating losses. In 2020, the operating investment was $450,000.

Another agenda item for the council Monday is an update on the bureau Visit Bemidji. The organization, created in 1989, contracts with the city to bring in visitors and conventions.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. tonight, Oct. 18, and can be viewed on the city's website.

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