New things could soon be on the horizon at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center; two local entities — the Shawnee City Commission and the expo Board of Trustees — are in agreement that the expo's potential has yet to be fully tapped into.
Though there was clearly some tension regarding how to go about it, both groups are unquestionably united on one front — they are all ready for a change.
This week Shawnee City Commissioners unanimously voted to enter into negotiations with Spectra, a venue management and hospitality services company, which is being considered to manage the facility.
On Thursday, the expo's board of trustees heard the proposition from Interim City Manager Eric Benson, who also is on the expo board.
Providing a list of venues and customer testimonials, he described the broad range of large to small event offerings the company handles across the country.
By Benson's figures, he said it appears that the savings from just one of the expo's events — the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) — would make up for the cost of the contract.
Benson said, by his gross examination, figures show that on expenses of $757,819.82, the expo can save $109,470 by changing the contract to Spectra because items the expo currently pays for would instead be included in Spectra's contract.
“In one event in one year we pay for the entire contract for management,” he said.
The other board members expressed a desire to take the time to get as versed as they can on Spectra, as well as some others over the next month before possibly choosing one and entering into negotiations.
“Let's be honest, we've done ample research on this; you've had the opportunity to hear this company forthwith,” Benson said.
He said if a decision wasn't made by trustees it could (at some point) be taken out of their hands.
Finding a manager for the facility is not the only card on the table.
Chairman Randy Gilbert said the decision to hire a manager would only be made if it was the best choice.
The expo board has been seeking city backing on a plan to restructure for years, Trustee Rachael Melot said.
As a next step, the expo board designated three of its members — Rachael Melot, Tim Barrick and Randy Gilbert — plus a Shawnee City Commissioner (to be appointed by Mayor Richard Finley), to do some research on Spectra, as well as other venue management companies.
The committee is to bring its findings to next month's board meeting.
Watch for updates.