The board of trustees for the arena formerly known as the Cumberland County Civic Center is considering outsourcing the venue’s management to a private company.

The board disseminated a request for proposals in April and two firms responded with bids for a potential contract, said Dale Olmstead Jr., interim manager of the venue, which was renamed the Cross Insurance Arena in June.

The bidding firms are SMG and Global Spectrum, both located in the Philadelphia area, Olmstead said. Both are international companies that between them manage hundreds of entertainment venues. Global Spectrum manages the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and used to manage the Colisee in Lewiston.

The contract would cover all aspects of the operation, from managing employees and concessions to booking events and musical acts. The Request for Proposals says the new management firm’s goal should be “maximizing revenue and minimizing new cost” at the venue.

The trustees are expected to do final interviews with representatives of both companies in executive session at their next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, said Neal Pratt, a local attorney and chair of the arena’s board. After those interviews, the board will decide whether to outsource the venue’s management and, if so, with which company it will begin negotiations.

The venue has been publicly managed since it opened in the mid-1970s. Pratt said the board began looking at outsourcing management because of changes in the entertainment industry. He said that because large management companies have connections with national and international entertainment agents and promoters, there could be more opportunities to attract new business with a private firm.

Two concerns raised by hiring a private management company would be making sure the venue doesn’t lose its local community flavor, and that outsourcing makes economic sense, Pratt said. He said he doesn’t know which way next week’s vote will go – only a majority vote is necessary.

“People are honestly trying to figure out what’s best for this facility, so it’s hard to predict,” Pratt said. “That will become more clear as more information comes in and we fill in the picture.”

The Cross Insurance Arena has eight full-time employees and about a dozen part-timers, Olmstead said, and the number of part-timers can jump to more than 100 during big concerts or other events. Olmstead said both SMG and Global Spectrum have said they would try to retain all current employees if they were to receive the management contract. The arena has a current annual operating budget of $1.5 million.

Olmstead, who retired two years ago after nearly 31 years as Freeport’s town manager, said he has no opinion about whether the venue’s management should be outsourced. He previously served on the arena’s board of trustees from 1999 to 2009, and was brought in to manage the venue in July on an interim business after longtime manager Steve Crane retired. He said outsourcing management was never discussed during his time on the board.

Olmstead is not worried about his job if the board opts to outsource management because he plans to retire, for good this time. He believes a decision should be made soon for the sake of the community.

“I’ve been encouraging the board to make a decision sooner rather than later so everyone who works here and comes here has some certainty as to what the future of this facility looks like,” he said.

Pratt agreed that settling this issue as quickly as possible is the priority. If the board opts to begin negotiations with a private company, he said it would probably take a couple of months to finalize a deal.

“That’s just an estimate,” he said. “If we can do it more quickly, we will.”


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