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Genesis gets OK to run rink

The Wichita City Council decided Tuesday to switch management of the Wichita Ice Center and hired locally owned Genesis Health Clubs.

But that doesn't mean Louis Lombardo III, the center's general manager who works for the Virginia-based firm that currently manages the facility, has been left out in the cold.

Genesis president Rodney Steven II said after the meeting there's a possibility that he would retain Lombardo.

"We've interviewed him," Steven said. "He's a great asset to the community. Hopefully, we can keep him here."

Lombardo has been running the ice center since April for Rink Management Services, which has been managing the rink for more than four years.

Lombardo declined to comment on his discussions with Genesis.

Because of the uncertainty in recent months on whether the city would retain Lombardo's company or switch to Genesis, Lombardo said he accepted a position in January to run a rink in Monroe, Mich., for Rink Management.

"I've still been overseeing things here," Lombardo said.

The city must approve the hiring of the center's general manager.

Lombardo drew high praise from several people in the ice-skating community who addressed the council.

"People who use our ice say it's truly the best in the nation," said Jolene Taylor, a figure skater and a U.S. Figure Skating judge. "I'm proud of Lombardo."

More than 30 minutes of discussion preceded the council's 4-3 vote to hire Genesis to manage the facility, starting May 1.

Most of the concerns centered on Genesis not having experience operating an ice rink and the facility losing Lombardo.

"It's about servicing customers," Steven said, "and that's what we do well. It's about hiring people familiar with running a good ice center."

He said he would consider retaining much of the staff at the 15-year-old center at West Maple and Sycamore, across from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

The city sought to change management because it wanted to increase the facility's profit margin. Park and Recreation Director Doug Kupper said he wants to see a business established on the center's second floor to bring in more money.

In 2008, the ice center lost $33,000, and the city had to cover that loss. The center made a profit of $7,000 in 2009 and $23,000 in 2010, but that still left it short of recouping the loss in '08.

Kupper said that at one time he had suggested Genesis put a health club on the second floor, which had a restaurant until about eight years ago. Those plans drew the ire of some who said the space was needed to attract a major event, such as the Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Championships that was held there in 2009.

But Kupper said there are no specific plans for what kind of business would be on the second floor.

Steven said he wouldn't put a full-scale health club upstairs or do anything to the area that would reduce chances of bringing in major events.

For the first time, profit incentives are included in the contract. The city will pay 10 percent of annual net revenue up to a profit of $10,000 and 20 percent of anything over that amount.

Genesis was selected over Rink Management and New Jersey-based Ice World Consulting.

The contract with Genesis is for one year with a yearly renewal option for up to an additional five years.

The deal originally called for a three-year agreement with an option to renew for two more years. But a change was made late Monday because some council members wanted to be able to review Genesis' performance after each year, Kupper said.

Genesis had the lowest bid by $6,000. It will be paid an annual management fee of $42,000 for the first three years — if all the options are picked up by the city — and $45,000 for each of the remaining three optional years.

Genesis also must meet regularly with an advisory council, made up of the center's stakeholder groups.

The city has also agreed to spend $316,000 for maintenance and repairs at the center.

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