10. Tyson Events Center braced for competition from Sioux Falls, Lincoln

A majority of Sioux City Council members on Monday voiced their favor toward a proposal by the private management firm Spectra to run the Tyson Events Center, above, and Orpheum Theatre. However, the council ultimately deferred a final vote.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | A majority of City Council members on Monday voiced their favor toward a proposal by a private management firm to run two city entertainment venues, but ultimately deferred a final vote until next week.

The delay came at the request of Councilman Dan Moore, who said he wanted to take that time to gather public input and to reflect on the disadvantages and advantages of switching. 

"If the council votes this way -- and I'm presuming we will based on the way discussion is going, it seems like it's positive -- but I want to be sure we are going to pull together as a community on this," he said.

The city is weighing whether to enter negotiations with the Philadelphia-based Spectra for management of the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre, a move recommended by City Manager Bob Padmore and by the Orpheum Theatre Board of Directors. 

Sioux City has been exploring the move this year and has been deciding whether to contract with Spectra or conduct a series of organizational tweaks within its current city management structure, a move favored by another city panel, the Events Facilities Advisory Board.

Some council members were prepared to cast a vote Monday to enter negotiations with the firm, which proposes it can reduce the city's subsidy by $235,000 in the first year by boosting sponsorships and adding profitable events. 

Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said she values the opportunity to bring more quality events to attract more people from outside areas and show them what the city has to offer. She said since Spectra is willing to prioritize the hiring of city employees, she is behind the opportunity. 

"The bottom line for me, with Spectra, is the experience," she said.  

Councilman Pete Groetken, who told the Journal he was leaning toward Spectra last week because of how it plans to reduce the subsidy and how it can offer additional resources, reiterated Monday how he valued the organization's expertise. 

"This seems like an opportunity that is worth taking to me because of the resources that you bring to bear," he told a trio of Spectra representatives who were in attendance to field questions. 

Councilman Alex Watters, who said he favors private management, said he believed the city's proposal, while it offered strategies, seemed to be reactive.

"That is the detriment of cities and organizations and things like that, is when you're reactionary in nature," he said. "I want us to think 10 steps down the road. What are we going to do to implement or do to reduce things now and really set ourselves up to be successful?"

Moore, who read a list of advantages and disadvantages for each option during the meeting, asked several questions about how such a partnership would operate. After the meeting, he said he still needs time to weigh the information.

"I wanted to have that time so the public could take in what we've talked about," he said. "Until I pulled it together this weekend, I was scattered on my thought process."

The discussion, which lasted more than 90 minutes including a five-minute recess, also included input by about a half-dozen residents and city board members.

Julie Schoenherr, owner of SoHo American Kitchen & Bar, 1024 Fourth St., commended Sioux City management, saying on the night of Aug. 27 when Toby Keith played at the Tyson Events Center and Alanis Morissette played at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the business was filled to capacity for four hours straight.

"I think that that proves that our current management is able to do this," she said. "I'm thinking we should take the time to partner with Hard Rock (to provide six additional concerts at the Tyson) for a year. What do we have to lose?"

Orpheum Board member Dave Bernstein said he believed a switch to private management was long overdue and that the city needs the resources Spectra can offer. 

"It's a whole different world than it was five years ago, or certainly 10 years ago," he said. "You have a great staff here, led by Erika (Newton) ... and the question is how do we give them the most resources humanly possible to be able to compete against Sioux Falls, Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines to a point, and others as well?"

Chris De Harty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212 -- which represents more than 350 workers, including the city's operations, field services, technical and clerical staff -- said city staff have done well up to this point and he doubts a contracted company would improve the situation. 

"I've got people that are working down there right now that are on edge, trying to figure out what they're going to if they don't have a job," he said.

Mayor Bob Scott offered a few questions Monday but abstained from much of the discussion and the vote due to his private sector position as managing partner of the Sioux City Bandits, an indoor football team that plays its home games at the Tyson.  

The council will take up the proposal again during Monday's regularly scheduled meeting. 

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