County voids SMG's Coliseum contract

Sedgwick County will take over management of the Kansas Coliseum again after commissioners relieved SMG of its contract to manage the complex Wednesday.

Commissioners awarded SMG the contract to manage the downtown Intrust Bank Arena in 2007. As part of that contract, SMG also began managing the Coliseum this year.

That arrangement didn't work out as well as the county had hoped, commissioners said.

SMG focused its marketing and promotional efforts on the arena, leaving the Coliseum with few events this year.

For board member Gwen Welshimer, amending SMG's contract was an "I told you so" moment, she said after the meeting Wednesday.

Welshimer, along with commissioner Kelly Parks, voted against SMG's contract two years ago, solely because of the Coliseum component of the deal, she said.

"I didn't think that they would be in the right position to handle the pavilions or Britt Brown and the arena because there's such a difference in the two," she said. "They're more lined up to do big concerts and that sort of thing."

Under its contract, SMG received 5 percent of gross revenue from the Coliseum, estimated to be about $25,000 a year. Unlike its contract for the arena, SMG was not responsible for any net operating losses at the Coliseum.

Welshimer said her figures show that Britt Brown has been used 28 percent of the time during the past four years, from 2005 to last year, and the pavilions 47 percent of the time during the same time period.

Britt Brown was used 98 days in 2005, 90 days in 2006, 124 days in 2007 and 104 days last year.

The pavilions were used 175 days in 2005, 209 days in 2006, 162 days in 2007 and 143 days last year.

This year, fewer events have taken place at the complex, which is located off I-135 near 85th Street North.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said having SMG manage the Coliseum "wasn't a good model."

"Number one," he said, "we have distance issues. The Coliseum is out there, and the arena is down here. But more important, it's the focus on the operating model. They're getting 5 percent of gross revenues to manage the Coliseum. At the arena, they have full control and responsibility to make the arena financially viable."

That gave SMG more incentive to focus on the arena.

"Quite frankly, they never wanted that part of the agreement in the first place," Holt said of the Coliseum portion of the contract. "It became clear ... the synergy we thought might be possible was just not there."

Two groups are vying to develop the Coliseum. Heritage Development Group and North American Management-Kansas presented proposals to commissioners Tuesday.

Welshimer and Parks favor North American's proposal because they believe it has the best potential to bring money to the county.

Holt said Wednesday that if the county doesn't choose one of the proposals, it will have to figure out how to proceed with the Coliseum.

That worries Welshimer.

"Past experience shows us that we don't have the talent or expertise to do that," she said.