The Hermiston City Council voted unanimously Monday night to end the city’s association with VenuWorks, the management company that operates the Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center.
The five-year contract between the city and VenuWorks ends at the end of this year and the council voted to not renew it for another five years. The management fees the city will pay VenuWorks for 2022 will be $121,555.
Rather than find a new management company, the city will operate the facility itself and will look to add a sales and marketing position to the current three-person EOTEC staff, which also includes General Manager Al Davis.
City Manager Byron Smith said while the local VenuWorks staff on the EOTEC grounds have been great to work with, there have been issues with corporate side, “particularly financial reporting and other things we’ve not got from them.” He also said, to be fair, that VenuWorks, like everyone else, lost staff during the COVID pandemic.
Councilor Doug Primmer said the city now knows much more about operating a facility like EOTEC than it did five years ago. Smith agreed.
“We have a better handle on what it’s going to take to operate the facility,” Smith said.
Smith said the city may still work with VenuWorks as a consultant for establishing naming rights to the facility, something that was part of the original contract, but has yet to happen. Smith did note that VenuWorks is currently looking into the issue for EOTEC.
Councilor Nancy Peterson thanked Davis and his staff for the work they’ve done to keep EOTEC operating during the pandemic, such as the Festival of Lights and smaller events.
“A lot of what has gone on (at EOTEC) has helped this community keep as optimistic as we could be,” she said. “I cannot put into words the amount of effort you and your team has put together.”