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The City of Bloomington says it has a creative way to solve a problem posed by the return of concerts to its downtown arena.
The city says it is looking for Bloomington restaurants interested in taking over one or more concession stands at Grossinger Motors Arena. The restaurants would earn money from the additional activity, but they would be “responsible for 100% operation of the stand, food and drink to staff during the event,” according to the city. Restaurants must be located in Bloomington, with the capacity to provide up to seven staff, plus a food permit and preferably a liquor permit.
The idea arose because of a “challenge” created by the two October concerts scheduled at the arena (Casting Crowns and Lauren Daigle), said City Manager Tim Gleason. The arena has to offer concessions, he said, but it didn’t just want to offer a minimal âsoda and popcornâ menu after being closed for 18 months.
âThere are opportunities in COVID. We saw the outdoor dining downtown. It could be another one of those cases that becomes permanent, âGleason said.
Interested restaurants should email Leslie Yocum at [email protected] using the subject line âArena Concessionsâ by 5:00 pm Friday.
The city has been running the arena itself since last year, after splitting from outside management company VenuWorks. There wasn’t much to deal with. The arena has been largely dormant for the past 18 months due to COVID, with the exception of COVID vaccination clinics and farmers markets. Gleason said sports like ice hockey are unlikely to return anytime soon.
Speaking this week on WGLT Sound Ideas, Gleason was asked about the budgetary impact of a dormant arena.
âIn some cases, believe it or not, to operate some of the events with the huge losses that we have suffered in the past is more costly. You don’t need to turn on the lights and have the air conditioning on like you would for an event. But this is not an ideal situation. We know that at some point in the future we’re going to have to figure that out, âsaid Gleason.
That could mean selling the arena, an outcome long desired by critics of the venue.
The city was working on a request for proposals (RFP) for potential buyers before COVID hit, Gleason said. Now the pandemic has made it difficult to sell an arena.
âIt’s not ideal to suffer a loss, but (we) still think it’s a viable property and could be better served in the hands of someone doing this full-time, compared to a municipal entity, âGleason said.
The $ 29 million arena opened 15 years ago as the US Cellular Coliseum. It was politically polarizing, with a majority of voters opposed to building the arena in the 2005 referendum.
The site was renamed Grossinger Motors Arena in 2017. Since 2017, Grossinger Motors has changed ownership and is now known as Leader Auto. Negotiations with Leader Auto are currently underway to rename it Leader Arena, depending on the city’s budget.