With attendance, revenue and concession sales continuing to fall in recent years at the Wichita Falls Multi-Purpose Event Center, city officials are looking at options for its future.
This includes the possibility of having an outside company manage it.
“Some unfavorable results in the last few years…. in terms of attendance, revenues and concession sales so we wanted to take a look at all of our options,” Deputy City Manager, Jim Dockery, said.
The city already has a draft study on the possibility of private management.
“If the requests come back positive after staff evaluates those requests, we very well may privatize it,” Wichita Falls Mayor, Glenn Barham, said. “In which event, we’ll be doing it to save the community money…. to save the city money.”
The consultants found multiple areas that needed improvement.
“Maybe some of our weaknesses are in the marketing efforts and programs that we have in place,” Dockery said.
The MPEC budget is funded by about 60 percent from the revenue it generates and around 30 percent by the hotel-motel tax.
Leaders never believed it would be capable of making a large profit or even breaking even, but attendance and concessions have dropped so low that they needed to dip into the general fund to make up the deficit.
City officials informed employees yesterday of the possibility of moving from city to private management in the future.
“Nobody is going to be laid off – that rumor was running rampant throughout the community last night,” Barham said. “At this point in time, no one is going to be laid off. If we privatize, and the company comes in and does interviews, typically they retain 90 to 95 percent of the existing employees.”
A few employees voiced their concerns with the potential switch.
“Some of them were a little concerned about retirement benefits,” Dockery said. “Obviously, if you’ve worked for the city for a number of years, but you’re not vested yet…. in the city’s retirement program… and you had to change employment to the private sector, the retirement benefits might be affected.”
Dockery said some employees could move to other city departments or have the option to reapply for their jobs in with new management.
In the next 90 to 120 days, officials will look over proposals from management firms and will know more then if privatization will continue to be an option.
The city has experience with private firms managing city facilities such as the water park, Castaway Cove.
Their consultants research shows that in other communities with similar entertainment facilities about half of them are privately managed.