Veteran facility executive Mike Barber is retiring from the city of St. Petersburg as director of Sports, Entertainment & Convention Venues effective June 27. Barber joined the city's venues 16 years ago (June 1987) as vice president for Facilities Management for a private company hired to privatize management of the Bayfront Center Arena, Mahaffey Theater for the Performing Arts, the Coliseum and The Pier.
He also was responsible for overseeing the final design, construction, grand opening, and ongoing management of the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field, home of Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball team). Prior to baseball, the Thunderdome was configured for arena events, and it hosted 48 major concerts and several major sports events including NBA, NCAA Final Four, World Group Finals of Davis Cup Tennis, NHL Hockey, and Arena Football. That venue still holds the all-time attendance records for NHL and Arena Football.
Barber left the city after major league baseball was finally awarded to St. Pete, but
he was recruited back to his current city position in February 1998 to administer the city's multiple venues.
Barber was the founding director of facilities for the University of Toledo, which included responsibility for getting their new Centennial Hall arena up and running. During his tenure, he brought in virtually every available major touring artist to the campus with help from such industry promoters as the late Tom Hulett (Concerts West), the late Lon Varnell (Varnell Enterprises), Jules Belkin (Belkin Productions), C. K. Spurlock (North American Tours), Rick Franks (then Brass Ring) Arny Granat (Jam Productions), Brian Becker (then Pace, now Clear Channel Entertainment), Barry Leff (Beaver Productions), Bob Reid (VEE Corp), Earl Duryea (then Feld Organization), Joe Anzivino (then Harlem Globetrotters) and several other promoters.
This success led to many consulting assignments to other University campus
arena projects in the mid 70s.
An IAAM member since 1976, Barber participated with the initial IAAM Professional
Development Committee which led to the creation of the Oglebay School of Facility Management. He chaired the IAAM University Facilities Committee, and he actively participated as a presenter at numerous IAAM Conferences. As consultant to the University of South Florida in 1978 he conceived the creation of Sun Dome, Inc. a 501
( c )(3) private not-for-profit company, to provide a more efficient management vehicle for the University's Sun Dome. He was later hired to direct the start-up of that arena.
In 1984 he directed the final design, construction and grand opening of the Cajundome in Louisiana prior to joining the St. Petersburg project.
Of five arena grand openings Barber directed, a common denominator was a Kenny Rogers sellout concert performance 'in-the-round', in partnership with C.K. Spurlock. Other memorable booking highlights include the late greats Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Lawrence Welk, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Ricky Nelson and John Denver. Other sell outs of the 70's included Linda Rondstadt, Olivia Newton John, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Hank Wms Jr., original Beach Boys and many others. Family attractions included Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, and Sesame Street. Comedians presented included Steve Martin, Red Skelton, Richard Pryor & Eddie Murphy.
Barber will remain semi-active in the industry through Venue Management Solutions, a company he formed in 1995 to provide Performance Audit and related venue management services on a contract basis. He and wife Judy have two married children and three grandsons with a new arrival expected in the fall, all living in Tampa.