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Grand Forks Events Center Commission and Alerus Center staff meet on Thursday, June 28, 2017. (Herald photo/Sam Easter)

Under new management: Alerus Center gets ready for new leadership

Leaders of the Alerus Center met Wednesday for the final time before the city transfers management duties to an outside firm—and with a new director arriving as soon as Monday, there's plenty to do.

Darryl Jorgenson, the center's finance director, said there's a lot of excitement for Spectra, a Philadelphia-based company, to assume management duties from the city. The new company brings expertise and resources to Grand Forks, he said, though with it comes considerable adjustment.

"Obviously, there's a lot of transition right now. We're talking about employee packets to fill out, and policies and procedures," he said. "Change can be stressful. But it's OK, we all know there's light at the end of the tunnel, we're excited about it."

Wednesday's meeting was a chance for leaders with the Events Center Commission to meet and discuss the center's business and kicked off with a brief overview of the upcoming management change. The center's new director will be Anna Rosburg, the assistant general manager and marketing director at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyo. Her first day will be Monday.

The transition itself is expected take effect July 9, bringing a close to months of uncertainty on the Alerus Center's future.

Upheaval began in November with the dismissal of the facility's two top staffers, Cheryl Swanson and Bob LeBarron, after a city investigation into reports of a toxic work environment. Months of deliberations culminated June 16, when Alerus Center leaders approved a contract for Spectra to assume management of the building, taking over from the city.

The shift has meant a change for employees. Their last day of city employment will be July 8, and three city employees and one contract employee are not being rehired.

The new management will assume control of a facility that, as of May 31, was losing money for the 2017 calendar year. Though the center had projected a nearly $147,000 profit by the end of May in budget projections, figures presented Wednesday put that number at a nearly $77,000 loss. Jorgenson said it's mainly owing to fewer events taking place at the center than expected.

City Council and Alerus Center leaders may hold a joint meeting before the end of the year over Alerus Center finances—though the meeting stems from a separate funding matter. The Alerus Center receives a portion of the city's sales tax to fund its construction, maintenance and new capital projects, but only through 2029, when the 0.75 percent portion of the tax is expected to end.

"As we go through these years ... we've got lots of capital projects coming up that we need to address," Events Center Commission Chairwoman Julie Rygg said—from new technology to building improvements. "We want to make sure that when that does happen, we're fully prepared for that. That's an important conversation to have with the city, to be more proactive as opposed to reactive when that tax sunsets."