By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE — The City Council unanimously approved a contract to have Rink Management Services Corp. operate the Civic Arena.
The vote came after the Virginia-based company’s second presentation to the council. The first came at the Aug. 6 council meeting after Councilors Nicole Barnes, Carl Louvet and Wheeler Marsee walked out.
City Administrator Jim Beri said the arena does not have the staff to be profitable because “one person cannot handle the operation and marketing of the arena,” and the new management could give the arena “a fighting chance” at profitability.
Rink Management officials said they would like to promote the arena by advertising it to bring in more soccer and hockey leagues.
Jim Littlejohn, director of marketing for Rink Management Services, said the the company would act as consultants to the council on how to promote the arena and generate revenue. The company has no intentions of removing the arena’s staff, he said, and would only recommend to the council how to spend money to market the property correctly.
The company would look for a corporate partnership to rename the facility, he said, or get sponsorships from multiple companies to help with the arena’s costs.
“We want to reach out and engage the community,” Littlejohn said. “This is an amenity they have to embrace and get involved with.”
Littlejohn said the company wants to market the arena with various special events like hockey lessons and theme nights on social media sites, coupled with the email and mass-text marketing programs the company has in place.
“We are big believers that you have to add entertainment value to the ice rink because having people just skate around in circles is just not going to cut it,” he said.
Rink Management would charge the city a yearly rate of $17,000 with an undisclosed commission rate on revenue generated over $725,000, which Littlejohn said was a fair benchmark for a facility with an ice rink and a soccer field. The previous financial statements show the arena is capable of generating that kind of revenue, he said, and he is confident it could produce significantly more than that if the company is given the time to market it.
The company currently consults for the recreation center in Romulus, Littlejohn said, and has a similar agreement with that city. He said the center is able to generate the revenue to sustain itself and produce additional income for the city.
Councilors expressed their hopes the management company can do the same with the Civic Arena.
“The most important thing, right now is to make the arena sustainable,” Beri said. “We have a lot of competition from other cities and need a dedicated team to market its strengths, like the soccer field, to keep it a viable part of this city.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])