We support dialogue about future management of our city’s signature entertainment venue, the Tyson Events Center (the conversation involves future management of the Orpheum Theatre, as well). Regardless of what results, this discussion is constructive because it's focused on making Tyson better for today and tomorrow.
The choice is between proposals from the city's Events Facilities Department for continued public management and Philadelphia-based Spectra for private management.
As its members near a decision, perhaps this month, we believe these are among key questions the City Council should ask:
1) What defines success at Tyson?
2) What is necessary for Tyson to compete - in particular, to compete with nearby venues in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota - for concerts? Given the challenges of competition, what is realistic in terms of performers? For example, is a goal of six sold-out concerts - as Tyson booked in 2011 - unreasonable today in the face of increased competition?
3) How valuable is the variety of events unrelated to music Tyson hosts each year? What emphasis do the public and private proposals place on those events?
4) How important to the future success of Tyson are parking improvements and/or building improvements? To what extent do the public and private proposals emphasize improvements like those suggested by a recent private study to concession areas, ticketing spaces and the arena?
5) How will public versus private management impact future parking, concession and ticket fees?
6) At a meeting of the Events Facilities Board and City Council on Aug. 25, Events Facilities Department Director Erika Newton discussed an offer made by Hard Rock to hold at least six concerts at the Tyson each year if Tyson remains under public management. Might Hard Rock consider a similar partnership with a private management firm?
7) Is it absolutely essential for a decision to be made this year? Why not wait, say, one year and see how well an arrangement between the Events Facilities Department and Hard Rock works?
8) What is the impact on taxpayers of public versus private management?
9) What happens to employees of the Events Facilities Department under private management?
10) What will happen to the tourism arm of the Events Facilities Department under private management?
For two primary reasons - 1) the importance of the Tyson to quality of life and the importance of quality of life to economic development and 2) the impact of Tyson operations on taxpayers - the importance of this discussion to our community can't be overstated.