Tag Archives: VenuWorks

Swansons Switch Off

23 Nov

Cheryl Swanson

Cheryl Swanson began her new career as executive director of the Alerus Center, Grand Forks, N.D., for VenuWorks Nov. 15. When called Nov. 16, she and Roger Swanson, who has held that post, had just attended his last commission meeting there before moving on to be director of business development in North America again for VenuWorks, working out of his Minnesota home.

One of his oversights will be the new collaboration between VenuWorks and Global Entertainment, where Roger Swanson worked for three years prior to moving to VenuWorks. That collaboration may soon involve management of the newest of the Global Entertainment Corp. hockey arenas, Dodge City/Ford County Events Center, Dodge City, Kan. That 6,000-seat arena is set to open in February 2011.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Swanson is thrilled with the complex in Grand Forks, which she noted has an attached 12-story hotel and waterpark which enhance Alerus Center’s use as a conference center. That side of the business is very strong, she said. The center also hosts University of North Dakota football. With the hotel, waterpark, arena, football field and conference space, “it truly is a destination complex,” she said.

Prior to joining VenuWorks, Swanson was executive director of the Breslin Center at Michigan State University, East Lansing Mich. She began her facility management career at the Sioux City (Iowa) Convention Center, Auditorium and Tourism Bureau, and later opened the Convocation Center and Pease Auditorium at East Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

The Alerus Center opened on Feb. 10, 2001.  It has a full arena seating capacity of 21,000 and a half-set of 11,000. It seats 13,500 for University of North Dakota football games and 9,500 for basketball games. It also has a theater set of 3,600. Its Grand Ballroom is 26,000 square feet and can be separated into five individual rooms.  It also has 12 meeting rooms ranging in size from 620 to 1,330 square feet. There are 14 suites and one VIP Club suite.— Linda Deckard and Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Cheryl Swanson, (701) 792-1200


VenuWorks Partners with Global Entertainment

16 Nov

VenuWorks, Inc. has announced a partnership with Global Entertainment Corporation in which VenuWorks will provide facility management as well as food and beverage services to future Global Entertainment facilities. Global Entertainment will provide construction and ticketing services. Contact: Tammy Koolbeck, (319) 929-5755


Naming Rights Report: Sanford Center

7 Nov

Sanford Center, Bemidji, Minn.

Date Announced: Oct. 25

Buyers: Sanford Health

Terms: $2 million over 10 years, with a 5-year extension option

Brokered: Locally

Ownership/Management/Tenant: City of Bemidji/Venuworks/Bemidji State University hockey

Comments: Sanford Health, a health care company based in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D., has purchased naming rights to the events center in Bemidji.

The company has facilities in Bemidji. Sanford Health recently expanded into the region with the acquisition of MeritCare, according to Bob LeBarron, executive director.

The name is expected to change over within a month, after the deal has been reviewed by state agencies.

“The deal was reached locally,” LeBarron said. “Sanford Health has an existing relationship with the building’s main tenant Bemidji State University and discussions followed after introductions to local VenuWorks management staff.”

The deal will help close the anticipated $300,000 operations deficit for the center, which opened this fall. The first payment is expected in November.

Contact: Bob LeBarron, (218) 441-4001


Siehl Joins VenuWorks

7 Nov

John Siehl has been named to the newly created position
of director of Support Services for VenuWorks. Siehl recently retired as executive director of the Nutter Center at Wright State University in Dayton and serves as
chairman of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).
Contact: Tammy Koolbeck, (319) 929-5755

ICCC Speech Serves as Wakeup Call to Building Managers

27 Oct

Panelist Rod Cameron (center) from Criterion Communications spoke on the closing panel of ICCC. He’s seen here with panel sponsors Steve Peters and Tammy Koolbeck from VenuWorks.

REPORTING FROM SAN DIEGO — Has the convention center industry spent too much time marketing itself as a destination business, and not enough time promoting economic development?

Rod Cameron, president of Criterion Communications, said it was this messaging that brought on the precipitous cancellations of meetings during the economic crisis that peaked in fall of 2008 and can still be felt today.

Cameron’s comments were delivered during the final session of IAAM’s International Convention Center Conference in San Diego, and Cameron told many of the center managers in attendance that unless they began to promote themselves as economic engines, they would continue to suffer under the bully pulpit of politicians and meetings industry opponents.

“As venues and an industry, it doesn’t help to be referred to as a waste of time and a waste of resources,” he said.

Following the financial crisis, many saw meetings as an excuse for “going off and having a good time and later justifying it that you were trying to do something useful,” he said.

Suspicion first popped up with pharmaceutical conferences, which began to scale back meeting and recreational spending amongst concerns that money set aside for research and scientific pursuit was being used for golf and grand parties. It didn’t help when firm AIG was revealed to have planned lavish retreats for executives after accepting billions of dollars from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a fund that uses federal taxpayer dollars.

“If we’re perfectly honest, we have to admit that as an industry, we contributed to the whole mess as a collective,” Cameron said. “We did that by over-indulging in the use of leisure messages and leisure imagery in terms of how we market convention destinations.”

Making it worse, Cameron argued that the meetings industry has been overly obsessive with sustainability initiatives, pushing environmental efforts to the exclusion of economic efforts.

“In the midst of all of this, surveys we’ve done found that 75-80 percent of centers had developed major sustainability programs, but not more than 30 percent could identify those as prominent marketing features. It had simply became an expectation that they would be needed to function,” he said.

In many cases, clients weren’t aware of the sustainability effort, he said, and “certainly most weren’t willing to fight for it. Hardly anyone would actually pay more money for it.”

Couple that with advances in digital technology that have made it easier to conduct remote meetings, and the meeting industry increasingly finds itself on the defensive.

“We’re going to need a better and broader value statement about what meetings are all about and what convention centers deliver to the community. When our financial story starts to soften, we need something to pump it up with,” he said.

First and foremost, economic development should be measured locally, since local and regional governments are often the driving financial forces for most convention centers. Cameron said the industry should also revisit its performance measures.

“Why is the top measurement hotel room nights? People don’t attend meetings so that they can stay in hotel rooms? They have meetings to share knowledge,” he said.

Cameron said that buildings that can make the argument that their centers actually accomplish all of their economic policy objectives in the local community have a much better chance of getting the attention of stakeholders.

“We are systematically underestimated because we systematically underestimate and undervalue ourselves,” he said, later adding, “We’ve got a key role to play in recovery, and that’s an important story to tell. If we can make our respective governments understand this, they’re going to take us a lot more seriously because that is their number one concern.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this story: Rod Cameron, (604) 836-2123