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Shawnee City Commission: Spectra gets nod for another year despite push-back from Harrod

By Vicky O. Misa | | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar

The Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center's management contract with Spectra was under fire Monday; the item was deferred last month after Ward 3 City Commissioner James Harrod brought some concerns to the table.

Spectra's five-year contract was scheduled for an annual ratification of terms in May, but the board chose to defer the decision until issues could be aired and addressed with the company.

With the matter back on the agenda, the expo's General Manager Erin Stevens arrived ready with a presentation at Monday's gathering, sharing a look at what the venue management firm has accomplished since it took over operations at the Shawnee event center last summer.

“We're proud of what we've done and are excited about what's coming,” she said.

Stevens said COVID-19 slowed down some of the momentum from the spring and late winter, causing its April lineup to falter from cancellations.

“We've been working diligently to reschedule all the events we can and bring additional ones back to the expo,” she said.

A few attractions include a monster truck show that rescheduled for September, a micro-wrestling event set a new date in October, and American Bullriding Federation (ABRF) is bringing a series to town, along with live music, Stevens said.

“I'm super excited to announce officially for the first time tonight we have signed into contract David Nail for a live concert on Aug 22,” she said. “For those of you who don't know, he's a country music star and has a couple hits out there currently played on the radio.”

Stevens said some things that have already been successfully brought to the expo include HalloweenTown, a new point-of-sale system that implements more accurate income reporting, and an in-house mixed-beverage license.

“We've been using the Spectra Capital Investment Funds to purchase — we've allocated approximately $100,000 for concession stand improvements and equipment,” she said. “Funds include money set aside for additional equipment in the future and pre-operations by the Health Department, inspections were already done, and we are good-to-go with a couple more additions after I install the equipment that's already arrived.”

Year-to-date, she said the firm has spent $49,024.69 specifically on concession equipment, with additional expenditures around $8,000 for point-of-sale equipment and $2,000 in cleaning, resealing floors and painting the walls (which is planned this to be done this week).

Rebranding and a new website also has been in the works, she said.

Many repairs and maintenance improvements, though often out of the public eye, she said, also have been underway.

Some new directors and experts have been enlisted for help with operation and/or assessment of the facility.

Once Stevens was finished with her presentation, Harrod expressed his disappointment with Spectra.

“One of the things I've run into personally is a constant battle with having some of the events we have always had out there,” he said. “I've had to intercede and have the City Manager intercede on several occasions.”

He said Stevens could read her list all night long about what's coming up and what's going — he said he went on the website and couldn't see any of those things.

“I checked the website of three or four different venues that Spectra has, they don't have anything scheduled on the website for 2021 and 2022,” he said. “So, I'm just not there.”

Stevens responded, saying most of Spectra's venues are still shut down, due to COVID-19.

“I don't know about anybody else, but I'm bored out of my gourd because I don't like for somebody to read to me; if I had that (Stevens' slide presentation) a day or two ahead of time and been able to study it, I'd have been a lot happier than I am right now,” he said. “I take these minutes and all this stuff from the commission reports and I spend hours studying them; what you read tonight doesn't mean squat to me.”

He said he just knows what's happened out at the expo and he knows what's gone on.

“I don't see it happening, of course now that I've raised a concern about it all of a sudden we're doing all this stuff,” he said. “I can have a restaurant up with a concession stand and beer venue going in six weeks; I don't think it would take me a year to do it, and that's what you've had and you haven't done it.”

Harrod said he's not pleased at all about the progress.

“I went back and looked at all those (previous commission meeting) tapes and presentations and they (Spectra) said they would have 234 events this year — well, we haven't had 234 events; I don't care what you say,” he said. “Ninety percent of those events we already had; I don't see anything on the schedule for 2020-2021 and those should've already been scheduled.”

Harrod said the city has too much money invested at the expo to let it go to pot; that's what he said he thinks has happened to it.

“I don't think you're taking care of business and I've not had a good relationship out there,” he said. “For me, it's not going to happen.”

Harrod's many verbalized misgivings proved unfruitful toward a thumbs-down decision though, as he stood alone in opposition and the rest of the commission agreed to acknowledge the continuance of Spectra's contract for a second year in a 6-1 vote.