If Independence City Manager Robert Heacock has learned one aspect of events centers, he said, it’s that a one-size-fits-all model hardly exists.

If Independence City Manager Robert Heacock has learned one aspect of events centers, he said, it’s that a one-size-fits-all model hardly exists.

“They seem to be very specific to the locality of where they are operating,” Heacock said of events centers’ different funding streams and management approaches. Earlier this week, Heacock elaborated on the City Council’s approval of a nonprofit organization to manage the Independence Events Center.

“It was really more of a financial move to try to keep as much as money as possible with the facility instead of paying corporate income tax,” Heacock said.   

Earlier this month, the Independence City Council approved the transition from the Independence Events Center LLC to the nonprofit Independence Events Center Management Corp. The decision for a permanent management replacement came nearly six months after the city and Global Entertainment Corp. mutually ended Global’s management and operations at the Events Center.

Heacock maintains that little, if anything, has changed operations-wise at the facility since Global left. The Events Center and its adjoining Centerpoint Medical Center Community Ice Facility have 20 full-time employees and up to 300 part-time employees. The employees are receiving the same pay as when Global Entertainment managed the facility, said Mike Young, who has served as the Events Center’s general manager since January 2009 and who is considered the nonprofit organization’s executive director.

Those who work at the Events Center are not considered city employees. Instead, Young said, they work for the management corporation.

The city continues to own the Events Center, though the nonprofit organization is distinct and is separate from the city in its finances, Heacock said.

The newly formed nonprofit organization does not have the authority to issue bonds for additional financial assistance, Heacock said. Significant policy decisions involving the Events Center, such as whether to charge for parking, would go before the City Council instead of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

The board would consider other minor operational decisions, such as how much should be charged for concession stand items or whether to book a particular act, Heacock said.

“The ultimate authority is still retained by the City Council,” he said. “There is no independent authority other than what’s granted to (the nonprofit) by the City Council. Ultimately, the city is relying on the management team that’s been out there. What we hope to do is to supplement that from a city standpoint with our knowledge and experience to help monitor and guide the overall operation of the facility.”

The capital expenses of the Events Center are funded through its community improvement district half-percent sales tax. Payroll funds come from income generated by events booked and from programming at the Centerpoint Medical Center Community Ice Facility.

“In our case, it’s separate,” Heacock said of capital costs versus payroll expenses. “If you look at some of the facilities across the country, you’ll see a sort of blending where they have tried to pay for the construction costs through the day-to-day operations of the facility. Those are frequently very, very challenging enterprises because there isn’t sufficient money to do that.”

Independence and the city of Allen, Texas, are nearly identical in their events center situation. Like Independence, the city of Allen owns its events center, which includes Central Hockey League and Indoor Football League tenants. The two cities opened their facilities just three days apart in November 2009. Allen and Global ended their agreement several months before Independence.

When the city of Allen and Global Entertainment parted ways in summer 2010, the city took over management on a transitional basis, said Allen, Texas, City Manager Peter Vargas, while staff researched the area and which companies were in the marketplace to provide management services.

“Every management company would require an annual $150,000 to $200,000 as a management fee and that they would not guarantee operations, meaning if their was a deficit at the end of the year, the city would still be responsible for it,” Vargas said.  

So, on Oct. 1, the city of Allen’s Parks and Recreation Department took over management of the Allen Event Center. A majority – but not all – of the center’s employees were kept on staff, Vargas said.

The move was a positive one, Vargas said, adding the local management model has increased the level of activity at the arena. The previous lack of foot traffic was the main concern under Global’s leadership, Vargas said, and the Parks and Recreation Department’s management also has reduced the redundancy that a separate management company had created.

“We also improved relationship with the tenants of the building,” Vargas said, “and that has led to smoother operation.”