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City Discovers nTelos Pavilion Operated Without Any Oversight

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — For two consecutive summer concert seasons, nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center in Portsmouth, VA, has been practically operating without any oversight, reports the Virginian-Pilot. Apparently, city administrators have no attendance or financial figures for most of 2003 and all of 2004, although Harbor Center Joint Venture, managers of the facility, say they have submitted numbers each month. A consultant, hired by the company to analyze the shed’s performance and paid $8,500 annually, never did a 2003 year-end report, saying he never received financial figures.

“I’m speechless. This is ridiculous,” said Councilman Stephen E. Heretick.

Now, the city has no idea if it is losing more money than anticipated on the publicly owned, $13 million venue, the paper reports, noting that the city was scheduled to pay $1.5 million in debt service on the venue this concert year and had forecast $537,000 in revenues from ticket sales taxes and payments from Harbor Center Joint Venture.

Hurricane Isabel shortened last year’s season when torrential rains and gale force winds destroyed the amphitheater’s roof. This year’s season kicked in late because work on a new roof wasn’t finished. Still, 31 shows were staged.

According to Kenneth Wheeler, city spokesperson and newly appointed liaison to the pavilion, much of the miscommunications with the amphitheater resulted from a big turnover in city staff, he said. Since the venue’s 2001 opening, three city managers oversaw the contract with Harbor Center Joint Venture. Since 2003, there hasn’t been a liaison from the city manager’s office to oversee the venue.

Bill Reid, president of concert promotion firm Rising Tide Productions and a partner in Harbor Center Joint Venture, told the paper, “Everyone who was in charge of this facility is no longer with the city.”

Reid said monthly performance updates were sent to the city treasurer’s office with tax payments, but had no idea the information wasn’t being forwarded to the city manager’s office, the paper reports. The city hasn’t located those updates and Reid said his company will work with city officials to provide information on missing attendance and financial figures.

The city is now planning to give Harbor Center Joint Venture a $270,000 contract to run city events, noting the company’s pavilion performance has no bearing on how it is viewed for other jobs.

“We’re pretty much looking at these things as two separate contracts,” Wheeler said in the paper. “We’ve selected their proposal as the best fit for doing what we asked for.”

The city has also begun to collect information for a performance evaluation of the pavilion’s last two years. – Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner