That was just one of the tidbits to come out of Wednesday's meeting of the Civic Centre Commission supposed to oversee the private company hired to run the Civic Centre.
- Jerry Lopez, the Civic Centre's Operations Manager who had overseen set-up and take-down of countless events for more than a decade is gone. He was "not fired," insisted Rik Edgar, executive director, but rather "restructured" out of his job. "We went in a different direction with our staff," Edgar said.
- Losses last year far exceeded the $350,000 budgeted. Another $155,000 had to be provided by the city at the end of 2008 to close out the year.
- Wednesday's meeting was the commission's first since Edgar was hired on Oct. 27, 2008, about three weeks after his predecessor was fired, apparently for not attracting more events. The center is run by VenuWorks, an Ames, Iowa, company hired by the city four years ago.
- Out of 11 meetings in 2008, the commission had a quorum at just three. Current chairman, District 1 Alderman Jeff Coe, said he expects the City Council to fill two vacancies on the nine-member Commission on Feb. 3. Four of the present seven members were present: Coe, Andy Kindsvater, Nicholas Yackley and J.J. McAuliffe..
"It looks like people here don't want to work weekends, and are saying 'we're booked' when prospective customers call," Matt said. He quoted his customer as saying, "They're pressuring me that Fiesta Catering is the only one here."
Edgar replied that the Civic Centre staff has been cut to three full-time employees -- "We purposely run light in winter." -- so they were unable to host events simultaneously at both Festival Hall and Memorial Hall (more employees are being trained and hired now). He earlier told Sophisticatering that the employee responsible for tipping off their competitor, Fiesta Catering of Kenosha, has been fired, and reiterated that there are no dates in July or August compatible with the 1,000-person reunion.
Some of the discussion devolved into he said/she said. David Perez, of Fiesta Catering, regretted that his company "is being dragged through the sewer," and denied getting any preferential treatment. Noting that Fiesta only handled five small events at the Civic Centre in 2008, Edgar said, "If we're giving them preferential treatment, we're not doing a good job of it."
"The bottom line," said Matt Flynn, "is that it's unfortunate we had to turn people away." Coe tried to act as a mediator, saying, "We've got to see how we can make this grow. We don't need people reading that things are bad down here." "How do we move forward?" Flynn answered his own rhetorical question: "By not having these kinds of problems in the future."
Moving forward, Edgar was happy to discuss some recent successes, like keeping the Journal Times' car show, after a decision had been made to move it elsewhere. He also announced a verbal commitment received Wednesday from the Teacup Dogs Agility Association for a three-day show on Oct. 9-11. Teacup Dogs' website -- "to provide a competitive venue for dogs of small stature without regard to breed or pedigree" -- doesn't yet list Racine as the location of its 2009 event. (Wait... now it does!)
Update: An alderman was overheard at Thursday's night's special meeting telling a city official: "We have to get the Civic Centre fixed." The official agreed.