Fort Smith panel terminates agreement for convention center

FORT SMITH — The idea of an outside firm managing the Fort Smith Convention Center beginning next year has gained another seal of approval.

At a meeting Tuesday, Fort Smith’s Advertising and Promotions Commission voted to terminate its lease agreement with the city for the management of the convention center and waive a 90-day notification requirement effective that same day.

This comes after city directors approved a management agreement for the convention center with OVG Facilities, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles-based private firm Oak View Group, during its meeting Nov. 10. The resolution stated approval of this agreement was conditioned upon the Advertising and Promotions Commission agreeing to terminate its lease, with the termination being effective no later than Dec. 31.

The lease between the city and Advertising and Promotions Commission for the convention center has been in place since Feb. 28, 2012, Sandy Sanders, interim executive director of the commission, wrote in a memo. It includes a provision which provides the lease automatically for one-year terms unless either party terminates the lease. This can be accomplished by giving the other party written notice at least 90 days in advance of the then-current term expiring.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman wrote in a memo included in the packet for the Nov. 10 directors meeting the agreement between the city and OVG Facilities for the convention center comes with an effective date of Jan. 1 for an initial three-year term with options for up to seven subsequent one-year terms. Dec. 1-31 will serve as a transition period.

The Oak View Group, according to Dingman, responded to the city’s request for proposals for management services for the convention center in November 2019.

“OVG proposed a comprehensive approach for increasing business and events at the facility, including using its nationwide network of resources to attract programming, shows, events and other offerings,” Dingman wrote.

Directors heard a proposal from Oak View Group during a July 14 study session.

The city subsidizes the convention center with $777,000 per year from the general fund, and what the venue doesn’t spend goes into its fund balance for future projects.

In considering whether to hire an outside firm to operate the convention center, City Administrator Carl Geffken has said the city was examining what it had done “in the past, and are there different, better ways that can provide better service, more service at the same cost, or do the same with less cost.”

After an executive session, the commission also voted to approve two appointments on Tuesday. Current commissioner Debra Presson was appointed to another four-year term on the commission while Talicia Richardson was appointed to serve the remaining two years of commissioner Calvin Remy’s term.

Mayor and Commission Chairman George McGill said Remy died earlier this year.

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