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Erik Burgess, Published January 28 2014

Fargodome board reluctantly OKs management contract

FARGO – Members of the governing board of the Fargodome reluctantly accepted a new contract Tuesday for the management firm that runs the event center.

City commissioners decided last week to offer the event center management firm Global Spectrum a series of three one-year contract renewals instead of a single, three-year renewal.

Some Fargo Dome Authority Board members at their meeting Tuesday balked at the terms, but eventually the board unanimously approved the contract. It now goes back to the City Commission for final approval.

The one-year contracts for 2014, 2015 and 2016 can be terminated by the city at the end of each year with a 90-day notice.

Global Spectrum initially asked for terms that would allow it to renegotiate the contract if the city decides to build a new convention center. City commissioners didn’t agree to that, and Dome Authority President Deb Mathern said Tuesday that Global Spectrum is OK with the three one-year renewals.

Board member Dennis Fuhrman said the commission’s direction confused him, considering the longstanding relationship the city has with the Philadelphia-based event management firm, which has run the dome since 2003.

“They’ve been a great partner for us … and yet it’s kind of like handcuffs put on them,” Fuhrman said. “I suppose if Global Spectrum is OK with it, we would be OK with it, but it just doesn’t seem to me that you would treat a partner who you’ve worked with 10 years in that manner.”

Board member John Q. Paulsen said the authority’s hands are tied by what the City Commission wants.

“If we want Global Spectrum, we are going to have to take the three one-year contracts,” Paulsen said. “The city isn’t going to help us in that regard.”

When city commissioners discussed the contract last week, they cited the city’s need for flexibility when it comes to managing all of the city’s public event centers.

Commissioners also formed a task force to study how the city could best use its event spaces. It could mean combining management for the Civic Center and the dome.

Included in the conversation is a possible new convention center, which a majority of commissioners have said they want built downtown.

The firm studying convention center needs and where such a space would be best in Fargo will present the final draft of its study to the public at 9 a.m. Feb. 10 in the North Dakota State University team room in the Fargodome, said Rob Sobolik, the dome’s general manager.

Sobolik asked Dome Authority members to prepare for up to a 70-minute presentation from HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting of Chicago.

City and dome leaders have been discussing a new convention center for nearly a year. Sobolik announced last February that he wanted at least 50,000 more square feet of convention space to help the Fargodome compete with other regional event hubs, such as the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Mathern said no official action will be taken at the Feb. 10 special meeting. The next regularly scheduled Dome Authority meeting is Feb. 25, which could change due to some members’ schedules, Mathern said.

Board member Darrell Vanyo was absent Tuesday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518