City leases Civic Center to WTDA

Published 4:34 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

By Staff
Officials plan to make facility attractive to ‘meeting market’
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
Under terms of the Civic Center lease between Washington and the Washington Tourism Development Authority, the city will appropriate $50,000 a year for five years to the WTDA.
The five-year lease was unanimously approved by the City Council at its meeting Monday. Councilman Archie Jennings, who was on vacation, did not attend the meeting.
On July 1, 2006, the city turned management and operations of the Civic Center over to the WTDA.
The allocation of $50,000 a year is to be used to help the WTDA operate the Civic Center. That annual appropriation is about what the city spent to help run the facility, which had been managed and operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department until the WTDA took over those duties. The annual $50,000 allocation will be disbursed at the rate of $4,166 each month during the term of the lease.
Instead of paying rent for the Civic Center, the WTDA agrees to “be responsible for all management and operations of the Civic Center, including supervision of all Civic Center staff,” reads the lease.
The city also transferred ownership of contents in the Civic Center to the WTDA, which is now responsible for maintaining those contents.
Last year, city officials determined the WTDA probably could do a better job of marketing the Civic Center than other agencies or city departments. During last year’s budget season, the WTDA made its case for taking over the facility.
The Civic Center has never been profitable for the city.
The WTDA is committed to spending $15,000 a year to market the Civic Center, city officials said.
The lease contains a provision that calls for the WTDA, as soon as possible, to make arrangements to repair the interior floor of the Civic Center. The repair will cost an estimated $5,575.
The lease requires the city to pay for replacing the facility’s HVAC system. The lease also requires the city, during the term of the lease, to be responsible for major structural maintenance — roofing, flooring, plumbing and electrical systems — of the Civic Center. The WTDA is responsible for all other maintenance. The WTDA also will pay all utilities charges incurred by the Civic Center during the term of the lease.
The lease also requires the WTDA to use its “best efforts” to use money in its existing budget and future budgets to make the following improvements and upgrades to the Civic Center as soon as possible:
The WTDA wants to bring more business-related activities to the city-owned facility. The WTDA also wants the center to bring in more revenue than it has in the past, possibly breaking even or turn a profit. At one of its meetings this past summer, the WTDA adopted a new rate schedule for renting the facility, a former freight warehouse for the Atlantic Coast Line railroad.
Last year, Lynn Lewis, the city’s tourism development director, said many people view the Civic Center as a community center.
The WTDA has other ideas for the facility.
By focusing on that market, Lewis noted then, the WTDA hopes to bring in events “to fill in those days of the week” when the center is not being used by the community for reunions, receptions and like events. The WTDA plans to market the Civic Center to “meeting planners who are looking for this type of venue,” Lewis said.