City Council votes to enter contract with CSL to plan for Sanford Center’s next chapter

The Bemidji City Council voted unanimously to enter a contract with Conventions, Sports, and Leisure, or CSL, for the future of the Sanford Center.

CSL would conduct an assessment of the event center as well as facilitate the interviews for a new management company.

According to the CSL proposal, this assessment would include an evaluation of management and operations, a situational assessment of the Sanford Center, and a management alternatives analysis.

These management alternatives could include a hybrid model, with the city operating some functions in-house with the management company handling other functions.

For the first phase of the overall assessment, CSL will meet with representatives of the Sanford Center Transition Steering Committee, as well as review industry trends and historical data.

In the second phase, CSL will work with the committee and city to develop a formal request for proposals, or RFP, from event facility management companies.

CSL conducted similar studies before the Sanford Center was constructed.

The council opted to end the contract with VenuWorks last month, which will expire around the beginning of March.

Councilmember Dan Jourdain asked how this new study will be different from the previous study proposal from CSL.

Mayor Jorge Prince, who sits on the Sanford Center transition steering committee, says this one looks for the future of the event center.

Two quotes were submitted for this work, with CSL requesting $35,000, which is about $20,000 less than the other quote.

In other business the council:

  • Heard an update from Visit Bemidji, the local tourism bureau. Ward 2 councillor Josh Peterson is the Executive Director of Visit Bemidji and stepped down to give the presentation with his co-worker Brady Laudon. Since Jan. 1, 2020, the bureau has done all its advertising in-house, unveiled a new brand, and used the savings to further distribute marketing materials to maximize impact. Peterson and Lauden reported successful tourism seasons despite the COVID pandemic. Visit Bemidji is funded through a 5 percent lodging tax, which local hotels and resorts contribute to.
  • Approved the 2021 Street Renewal assessment rolls. Homeowners along the streets renewed in 2021, which included Fern St. NW from Power Dr. to Highway 71, Ash Ave. NW from Paul Bunyan Dr. to 23rd. St., and 26th St. NW, from the dead-end west of Delton Ave. to Bemidji Ave. Property owners will be assessed $45 per linear foot for the new street, with $1,070 per lot for the new sanitary sewer and another $1,070 per lot for the new water line sections. These assessments pay for roughly 20 percent of the project cost.
  • Opted to host the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) 2023 Conference. City Manager Nate Mathews said this would not be a huge convention but will invite mayors of cities and towns along the Mississippi Rivers to the Headwaters region. MRCTI’s mission is to promote economic and environmental security and stability along the river’s corridor.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University.


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