Meridian Center contract terminated

Chad Frey
The Kansan
The city is looking to take operations of the Meridian Center in-house and terminate a management agreement that has been in place since the facility opened. [KANSAN FILE]

The city of Newton will decide Tuesday on the future of operations of the Meridian Center, a conference and event center constructed on E. Broadway by the city in July 2011. 

Since the center opened, it has been operated by Kemper Sports under an agreement with the city. Kemper sports also operates Sand Creek Station Golf Course. 

The move was brought on by COVID-19 and increased competition in the event center industry.

"We have been searching for a more ways to reduce costs of operating the center," said city manager Kelly McElroy. "Cancellation of the management contract and agreement became a necessity." 

A mutual termination agreement was set to before the city commission Dec. 26 for adoption. It specified that the city and Kemper have mutually agreed to terminate the current management agreement as of Dec. 31.

Kemper released current staff from non-compete clauses, allowing the city to retain staff including manager Michael Lunsford, who has served in that role since the center opened. 

Termination of the agreement would mean the city could avoid paying management fees to Kemper Sports. The city paid $65,000 in management fees in fiscal year 2020.

Assistance for operations from the city has varied, but in recent years the city has put $50,000 into an equipment reserve fund and used the economic development fund to pay $100,000 for operations.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a bid for a taxiway reconstruction project at the Newton City/County Airport.  Dondlinger and Sons was the low bidder with a bid of more than $6.1 million. The project will use FAA matching funds in addition to city and county funds. The city/County portion of the project will be $685,429. The project must first be approved by the county and the FAA before moving forward. 

• Considered an updated city stormwater management program.