Global Spectrum battles to run Knight Center
By Lauren Redding
As a Miami committee prepares to choose between two firms to manage the James L. Knight Center, at least one of the names will be familiar: Global Spectrum, the company currently operating the city-owned center.
The city issued a proposal request for management of the Knight Center May 16 and has received two bids. This week, a city committee is to evaluate and rank the proposals from Global Spectrum, a division of Comcast-Spectacor of Philadelphia that has been managing the center since 1999, and another company that has not been made public.
According to city Purchasing Department Director Kenneth Robertson, the city's current contract with Global Spectrum is set to expire and does not include any extension provisions. Because the contract exceeds $50,000, the city was required to formally request proposals. After this week's meeting, the committee is to send a recommendation to City Manager Johnny Martinez on which bidder the city should select. After Mr. Martinez negotiates a new contract, the city commission gives final approval.
Pablo Velez, city procurement supervisor, said it's unclear when the commission will decide.
Although details of the proposals won't be made public until mid-July, the city outlined in the request of what it's seeking from a new management team.
The city is looking to sign a three-year contract with the new management for the center, a four-story structure that includes nearly 460,000 square feet and includes the privately owned and operated Hyatt Regency Miami hotel.
The new contract will also include management of the Miami Conference Center, which was formerly leased to the University of Miami. The conference center takes up the third and fourth floors of the center's space and consists of 28,000 square feet.
The winning bidder will be responsible for complete management of the center, including subcontracting some institutional services. In addition to submitting a proposed compensation structure, the firms also submitted recommendations for additional revenue sources for the facility.
According to the proposals request, firms that outline creative methods to bring in more funding will be considered in the review process, including minimizing the annual cost of operation while maintaining the same level of service,.
The city has had a tumultuous history with the center. It was built in 1982 as a hub to attract international visitors and high-end performances, but operated at a deficit for many years due to almost $6 million in outstanding debt payments.
In 2005, former City Manager Joe Arriola put the center up for sale, calling it a "real white elephant," but to no avail. The city struggled to find anyone willing to purchase the money-losing center and eventually enlisted the help of consultant firm Staubach Company Northeast in 2006 to assist in the sale.
In 2008, with no sale on the horizon, the process stalled once again when Staubach Company Northeast was bought by a different firm and questions arose over whether the original contract was valid. Roxana Este, general manager of the Knight Center, said she is not aware of any current plans to sell the center. Mr. Martinez did not return calls for comment.
Although the center's fate with the city remains uncertain, Ms. Este said it has made a financial turnaround: For the past three years, the center has operated at a profit for the first time in its history. She could not provide concrete budget numbers, but said the center is expecting to turn a profit once again this year.
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