BLOOMINGTON — As its one-year anniversary approaches, VenuWorks hopes to turn the corner on a rocky start to managing the U.S. Cellular Coliseum for the city of Bloomington. 

That could mean fewer country and rock concerts at the downtown arena as the management team looks at a broader range of acts to draw more attendance and cut the venue's operating losses.

“We're looking at all kinds of different events," said VenuWorks' Lynn Cannon, who in December became the Coliseum's second new executive director in an eight-month span. 

“Some shows that we're looking at are not rock concerts or country concerts," said Cannon. "We're working with family entertainers and looking at shows that will be more broad-ranged and a little different."

But the management is open to "any genre of music," added Cannon.

"This is a great metropolitan area where you've got a lot different demographics," she said. "With the colleges here in the area there are a lot of young people who are here. Residents will be looking for different entertainment experiences as well."

Cannon said she could not disclose the types of entertainment being sought because they are still negotiating the bookings.

"As soon as we have contracts signed for these shows we will be announcing and putting tickets on sale," she said.

"But we are definitely looking at anything and everything. If we think something can play here, we will put an offer in. As long as we believe that there is a shot at making money and people will buy tickets then we're going to be out there trying to get those shows here."

Among the new types of acts being booked is comedian-actor Jim Gaffigan, who will headline his first-ever show at Coliseum Dec. 3.

"That (show) went on sale (March 3)," said Cannon. "We are selling tickets quite well for a show that's quite a ways away."

After a decade of managing the 10-year-old Coliseum, Central Illinois Arena Management did not seek to renew its contract in March 2016. The city selected Ames, Iowa-based VenuWorks as its replacement.

But VenuWorks' initial management year was full of surprises — from arriving that spring to find a lull in bookings to Illinois State Police launching an investigation into past financial operations under CIAM in September. That investigation is still pending. 

By December, the Coliseum's first executive director, Curtis Webb, was fired and then arrested on felony theft charges for allegedly taking an unspecified amount of money from the city.

At the start of 2017, VenuWorks reported a $674,000 operating loss for its first seven months of management. Cannon said the facility will end up with a loss when the fiscal year ends April 30.

"We're looking ahead to next year," she added. "We're forecasting that we won't break even, but we'll come a lot closer than we did this year.

"So everything that we can book and make money on will help us in obtaining that balanced budget that we need," said Cannon.

Some of the arena's booking successes already this calendar year include the March 1 Sesame Street Live performance, the March 6 WWE Live pro wrestling matches and country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton's upcoming concert April 29, which has sold out.

In addition to concerts and family entertainment shows, the Bloomington Edge indoor football team, the Bloomington Thunder hockey team, the Illinois State University Redbirds Hockey Club and the Bloomington Express basketball team, play at the venue.

She said the Coliseum also is rented out for AAU and Illinois High School Association events, including cheerleading, dance and wrestling competitions.

The facility has rooms and catering staff available for private parties, said Cannon.

Bookings for the summer include the 2017 Jehovah's Witnesses Convention over two weekends in June and some ice skating events in August. 

"I have a whole slew of different events that we're looking at booking and holding dates for," Cannon added. 

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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