Companies Drop Protests Over Pavilion Contract

PORTSMOUTH — According to The Virginian-Pilot two companies that had lodged protests against the new management contract for the nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center have dropped their threats to sue Portsmouth.

Without the possibility of lawsuits hanging over the amphitheater, the venue is clear for new manager Integrated Management Group to begin booking the 2006 concert season.

The companies’ decision ends a potential legal battle. In December, former manager Harbor Center Joint Venture and another company lodged formal protest letters complaining that the city unfairly chose IMG to run the publicly owned amphitheater.

The companies said Portsmouth should have been negotiating with more than one candidate at a time, and that because IMG was a new company, it did not have the work experience required to get the contract.

IMG, based in Virginia Beach, is a new partnership consisting of two former executives of concert promoters Cellar Door. Both have booked shows in the region for years.

City purchaser John Grook defended the city’s decision, saying that IMG was the clear favorite of the nine-person panel that chose the company. IMG was one of five businesses that bid on the contract to manage the $13 million amphitheater, which has encountered trouble since its 2001 opening.

The president of second-place firm Compass Facility Management wrote in a letter last week that the company had accepted Grook’s reasoning and would not be filing a lawsuit.

Todd Fiorella, attorney for Harbor Center Joint Venture, said his company believed it had a case but would drop its protest as well.

City Attorney Tim Oksman said Tuesday that the actions “removed any cloud” over the amphitheater’s operations.

“The selection process that the city conducted was long, careful, deliberate and fair,” he said.

“It resulted in the best company being selected. I’m gratified that the potential controversy is over.”