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Downtown Venues group presents completed report
Posted By Staff On March 17, 2010 @ 5:57 am In Online Exclusives | No Comments
From press release
The City of Rockford Downtown Venues, Festivals and Special Events Advisory Group (known as the Venues Committee), presented its completed report and recommendations at a news conference March 9 to Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen, and local citizens.
Mayor Morrissey convened the all-volunteer committee in June 2009. The committee was chaired by local businessman Mike Dunn and comprised of representatives from the general public, City of Rockford, Winnebago County and affected stakeholder organizations. The committee was charged with providing recommendations in the following areas:
→ Identify a vision and goals for the downtown publicly-supported venues, tourism attractions and facilities; special events and related marketing activities
→ Prioritize the use of public funds
→ Provide suggestions on governance changes
The Venues Committee’s recommendations utilized previously-commissioned reports, stakeholder input, primary research, industry expert guidance and management best practices.
“The Venues Committee carefully considered the insight and opinions of citizens, representatives from the downtown venues, city leaders and respected industry experts,” said Dunn. “When implemented, our recommendations will save taxpayers money, increase entertainment offerings and improve the cultural vitality of downtown Rockford.”
The Venues Committee recommends the following actions be taken to achieve the above-mentioned goals:
→ Restructure the existing management and governance model to create a new authority known as the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority.
Accordingly, the MetroCentre, Coronado Theatre and Davis Park would operate within the new Authority, under the governance of a newly-comprised board of directors and the management of a chief executive officer.
“The Venues Committee believes board leadership is the most critical element to the success of implementing its recommendations,” said Dunn. “Mayors Morrissey and Lindberg and Chairman Christiansen must have the ability to select board members for the new Authority who can guide this organization with a mind-set of entrepreneurship and accountability. The new Authority needs a fresh start with a new identity, purpose and vision for downtown and board members with specific skill sets should be appointed or re-appointed who can help achieve that future.”
According to state statute, the Mayor of the City of Rockford, Chairman of the Winnebago County Board and Mayor of Loves Park each appoint board members (five, three and one respectively).
Doing Business As
A “Doing Business As” motion would be filed with the State of Illinois to allow the existing Rockford Metropolitan Exposition, Auditorium & Office Building Authority (commonly known as the MetroCentre Authority) to be known as the “Rockford Area Venues & Entertainment Authority.”
Back Office Integration
The recommendations call for the new Authority to centralize administrative functions such as accounting, human resources and information technology, and create a uniform vision for the vitality of entertainment in downtown Rockford. “Consolidating the administrative functions into the new Authority could result in a significant cost savings and create operational efficiency,” said Dunn.
Other cost-saving recommendations include using private security and emergency management services (EMS) firms and/or the development of an auxiliary police force to staff special events, which could also result in significant savings.
Reporting and Accountability
The committee also recommends implementing reporting and accountability standards that ensure consistent and ongoing communication with stakeholders and government leaders, including regular meetings with community organizations, ex-officio board appointments and quarterly written and verbal reports to the city council and county board.
Marketing and Communications
The report recommends more integrated marketing and communications efforts among the new Authority, its venues and events, and the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to generate more consistency, professionalism, and efficiency in advertising and public relations. As such, the report recommends that as soon as possible, the RACVB, through a fee-for-services contractual relationship, become the chief marketing, advertising and promotion arm for the Authority.
Festivals and Special Events
The report also calls for the creation of a Festivals and Special Events division within the authority that would manage Davis Park, downtown festivals and parades and serve as a resource to local groups planning or hosting public festivals and events. This function could be contracted to On the Waterfront, Inc.
Sullivan Theater and Convention Center
In order to better coordinate and leverage downtown entertainment venues, the report suggests the Authority could provide facilities management and/or program the Sullivan Center. The report also suggests that a downtown convention center would complement the existing venues and would add to the overall vitality and viability of the venues and downtown Rockford.
Revise the appropriations of the City of Rockford Redevelopment Fund to create a financing model that provides appropriate oversight and control.
The new Authority should, the report suggests, operate with a new sense of entrepreneurship and seek to continually lower the amount of operating support needed from tax-supported sources. The Authority should operate from revenue provided by the consolidation of existing resources; new revenue realized through growing ticket, per-cap and sponsorship sales; and the City’s Redevelopment Fund.
The Venues Committee recommends the Redevelopment Fund be used to support the endeavor, based on the following provisions:
→ Annual operating subsidy for the aggregated organization not to exceed $1 million. This represents an approximate savings of $500,000 per year, and would bring the authority more closely in line with comparable venues studied by the committee. This subsidy would replace existing funding agreements already in place for the MetroCentre, Coronado Theatre and Davis Park.
→ A reserve fund for capital improvements to publicly-owned assembly facilities.
From the March 17-23, 2010 issue
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