In the category of "once burned, twice shy," the Bloomington City Council is making the right move in proceeding cautiously with an outside proposal to take over management of the city-owned Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

VenuWorks, which already has a contract with the city to manage Grossinger Motors Arena, has provided an interim manager to BCPA since the unexpected death of manager Tina Salamone last spring.

That has given VenuWorks time to get acquainted with BCPA's books, strategies, staff and community placement, and VenuWorks' management now thinks it can save the city up to $200,000 a year if it permanently takes over management of the entertainment venue.

VenuWorks, based in Ames, Iowa, oversees a variety of arenas and public arts centers in the Midwest. It contracted with the city in the spring of 2016 after Central Illinois Arena Management, a local business, opted against renewing it's 10-year contract.

Several CIAM managers recently were indicted on a variety of charges related to mismanagement of the arena, then known as U.S. Cellular Coliseum.

That's where caution enters the picture. Although VenuWorks' first arena manager left under less-than-desirable circumstances, VenuWorks quickly worked to right the ship and repay the city for allegedly mismanaged funds.

The CIAM matter unraveled publicly a couple of weeks ago and revealed what allegedly was an in-depth, long-term plan to skim money from what should have been city profits.

Understandably, as we opined last week, the city needs to make sure current and future money in all departments and contracts is being used correctly. Hence, the council's lengthy discussion Monday night on VenuWorks' proposal, rather than a quick vote to approve.

VenuWorks' original proposal to the city for overseeing the BCPA calls for a flat monthly fee of $3,000 to manage the facility, plus a percentage of food, beverage and other sales. VenuWorks proposes the same commission apply to BCPA and the arena. It says the cost savings would come from sharing personnel costs with the arena.

The idea of sharing management for both facilities, on its face, is sensible. Personnel with similar jobs can share duties at both facilities and scheduling, marketing and maintenance can be combined.

But there also is the question of VenuWorks' track record at the arena. Bottom line is there are not enough acts booked there, and VenuWorks has been on the job now 18 months. 

That situation needs to be addressed, too. And, given the recent issues with CIAM, we urge the council to take the time it needs before making a final decision on the newest proposal.


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