UPDATE: City Hires New Manager For nTelos Pavilion

PORTSMOUTH, VA (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — According to the Virginian-Pilot after more than two years of facing natural disasters, lawsuits, contract woes and administrative problems, the city on Tuesday hired a new manager for the troubled nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center.

The new five-year contract with Integrated Management Group of Virginia Beach will allow the city more financial and managerial accountability, and could even bring more public uses and events to the amphitheater, City Manager Jim Oliver said.

But the beleaguered venue isn’t out of the woods yet.

The amphitheater’s former management company has filed a formal protest with the city over how the new contract was awarded. So instead of being excited about the future, City Council members on Tuesday night were still worried about the past.

Despite concerns about a potential lawsuit, the council approved IMG’s new contract unanimously.

The company will take over operations in January and begin booking next year’s summer concert season.

IMG partners Mike Jones and Ken MacDonald, both former executives at Cellar Door Entertainment, said they were looking forward to bringing a mix of shows to the venue and working with the city.

“I’ve never been more excited about anything I’ve ever done,” Jones said. “This facility is magnificent. It’s a great place to see an artist. We’ll really take advantage of it.”

Under the agreement, the company will produce a minimum of 25 concerts next year. The venue also will be available for 12 community events. The company will provide monthly financial and event reports to the city, and provide results of an annual audit as well.

IMG will collect a $1 fee on top of each ticket price, and will receive the bulk of corporate sponsorship, concession and merchandising dollars.

In exchange, the city has taken over responsibility for maintenance at the amphitheater. According to the contract, the city will receive:

– A flat fee of $2,000 per event.

– A $1 parking fee added to the cost of each ticket.

– 6.5 percent of the gross sales on food and beverages.

– 5 percent of merchandise sales.

City consultant Bill Luther has estimated that under that formula, the city could stand to see a $300,000 profit from the upcoming season. That figure does not take into account the city’s debt payments for the construction of the building, nor does it include various legal costs still outstanding from the past two years.

The amphitheater’s roof was ripped apart by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, forcing the building to close for repairs until June 2004. Just as the roof was fixed, administrators acknowledged that no city official had oversight of the amphitheater, and that no one in the city had financial or attendance figures from the past year and a half. A review found that both Portsmouth and the former managers, Harbor Center Joint Venture, were in breach of the original management contract.

The city agreed to pay the company more than $1 million in exchange for sound and concession equipment and for ending the original management contract in 2005, a year early.

Five companies bid on the new management contract this fall, including Harbor Center Joint Venture.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing the company and one of its partners, Bill Reid, protested the way the city awarded the contract to IMG. The chief issue is whether the city followed its own procurement guidelines in negotiating with IMG for the new contract, and in whether it notified the other four companies correctly.

Deputy City Manager L. Pettis Patton said Tuesday that the city followed its procedures “to a letter.”

But Harbor Center Joint Venture attorney Todd Fiorella said he didn’t think so.

“This is not something we are doing because we’re offended that we didn’t get the contract,” he said. “We’re here because … we feel confident the process has been violated.”

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