Firms express interest in Century Center management

The private firm that now runs the McCormick Place in Chicago has expressed an interest in managing the Century Center in South Bend.

“We don't just have McCormick Place in our portfolio but we also have venues like Peoria and Toledo and Columbus, and other facilities that are similar size, venues similar size and markets,” said Gregg Caren, Senior Vice President of Strategic Business Development with SMG Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management.

Caren was among those who attended a pre-bid conference and tour at the Century Center today for those interested in bidding on management and food services.

SMG came from Philadelphia, while a company called VenuWorks came from Ames, Iowa.

Also present in today’s crowd were representative of the companies that now hold the food and management contracts with Century Center, Center Plate, and Global Spectrum. Those contracts expire at the end of June.

All potential bidders came in the apparent hopes that they could eventually devise a plan that would be exactly what the Century Center Board of Managers wanted to hear.

“We also want to hear how they might propose to change the mix of business here, how we can attract more convention business, perhaps fewer meetings, perhaps have more for profit events and slightly fewer not for profit events,” said Greg Downes, President of the Century Center Board of Managers. “The old business model is no longer sustainable and we need to do better.”

Downes says with the food and management services combined, the contract in 2012 was worth about $400,000.

Bids will be received March 12th, with a final decision expected to come in April.

“Just like you have the Double Tree brand on the hotel and it provides you with national sales and referrals and leads and things that's really what the SMG brand means to convention centers,” said Gregg Caren. “We run as many facilities this size as we do some of the big boxes in some of the major cities, and all of that allows us to communicate between those facilities and work with clients on a national basis that is looking to move their events around the country.”

As for Greg Downes, he was pleased with today’s turnout.
“It’s somewhat of a close knit industry and there seems to be a high level of interest. I also suspect there will be a couple of firms that were not here today that will present bids as well.”

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