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Bemidji City Council to enter negotiations with ASM Global for Sanford Center management

The Bemidji City Council voted unanimously in favor of pursuing a contract with ASM Global for the management of the Sanford Center.

Sanford Center
During a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, the Bemidji City Council voted unanimously in favor of pursuing a contract with ASM Global for the management of the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — The Sanford Center will soon be under new management.

The Bemidji City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1 to consider a proposed relationship with ASM Global to manage the Sanford Center and passed a motion to begin working out the contract.

“We think it’s a good company, we think it’s a good fit for Bemidji,” said City Manager Nate Mathews, who is also a member of the Sanford Center Transition Committee.

The committee recommended the council select ASM Global to take over the event center’s operation after a four-month search for a new management firm following the early termination of the city’s contract with VenuWorks, a management company based in Iowa, in September 2021.

Since the decision to discontinue their relationship with VenuWorks, the city has been searching for a new management company on a tight schedule, with VenuWorks set to vacate the Sanford Center in March.

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The decision followed years of leadership turnover at the center and the facility running large annual losses that averaged to $300,000 a year. These losses were subsequently covered by investments from the city.

ASM Global, which also manages US Bank Stadium and the Target Center, was one of three companies that expressed interest in taking over the management of the facility.

“(ASM Global) has a presence within the state and within the region that could certainly benefit Bemidji in a number of different aspects,” said Bill Krueger, who represented CSL, a company chosen to help manage the transition of management.

The company submitted a 200-page proposal outlining its plans for the center last week, which included an outline to decrease the yearly deficit to $190,000 in the first year, then to $6,000 the following year, and to make a profit of $158,000 in the third year.

Following the event center becoming profitable, the proposed contract would have ASM Global take 40% of the revenue earned.

It also included a $200,000 fund provided by ASM Global that would be delegated for capital improvements to the building, as well as a$100,000 grant to cover the initial risk of the transition.

“Of course, there’s going to be a lot of questions, a lot of skepticism with a new company,” said At-Large Councilor Daniel Jourdain. “And we hope that the transition will lead smoothly into what we are looking for in the city of Bemidji.”

A number of council members brought up the importance and value of the current staff at the Sanford Center. They also expressed their gratitude and desire to be able to continue their work under the new management of ASM Global.

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“I think the city and the staff are going to be in good hands with this new company,” said Ward 3 Councilmember Ron Johnson.

When put to a vote, all members of the city council supported a motion that would begin the negotiation of terms with ASM Global, with hopes to have things organized before VenuWorks vacates the facility in March.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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