A pair of Huber Heights officials took two overnight trips this summer using taxpayer money to attend concerts and conduct research as part of their process in selecting a management company for the city’s $18 million music center, the Dayton Daily News has learned.
City Manager Dave Studebaker and assistant city manager Scott Falkowski traveled to Evansville, Ind., and Canandaigua, N.Y., consecutive weeks in August — trips that cost more than $2,200 combined. A third trip to Brookings, S.D., also was discussed but not taken, according to documents obtained through a public records request.
The money to pay for the two trips came out of the general fund.
Studebaker and Falkowski attended a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at the Ford Center in Evansville Aug. 1-2 and a Keith Urban concert at the Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in New York Aug. 9-10.
Falkowski said the benefits of the trips included watching day-of-show activities, from stage set-up to breakdown; behind-the-scenes concession operations; meeting with city officials, owners/operators and security personnel; and discussing sponsorships, signage and naming rights.
“With our $18 million facility, we want to make sure that No. 1, it’s built right, and No. 2, whoever is running it knows what they’re doing and they do a good job for the city,” Falkowski said. “We can’t just hand over the keys to anybody.”
The Ford Center is managed by VenuWorks and the Marvin Sands PAC is managed by SMG.
VenuWorks and SMG are two companies that Huber Heights is considering hiring to manage the city’s 4,500-seat covered music center. Music and Event Management in Cincinnati is another potential management company.
MEMI manages the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. Huber Heights is modeling its music center after the PNC Pavilion, and city staff has visited the venue a couple of times, Falkowski said. He said he’s also been to the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering multiple times and toured the St. Augustine Amphitheatre in Florida when he was on vacation.
Both of the city-funded trips came in below the estimated cost.
The Indiana trip was estimated at $774.66 and actually cost $636.66 for mileage, hotel rooms and meals. The New York trip was estimated at $1,796 and cost $1,582.28 for airfare, hotel rooms and meals. Studebaker and Falkowski did not have seats at the concerts nor did they pay for tickets.
Falkowski said they did not give any official reports on the trips, but the information collected has been used throughout the music center planning process.
“We want to do this facility right,” he said. “I think we’d lose out on the benefit if we didn’t analyze all the aspects of running a facility.”
Studebaker, who have been city manager since March, was out of town last week and did not return messages seeking comment. He announced his resignation earlier this month and his last official day was Friday.
Outgoing Huber Heights Mayor Ron Fisher approved the trips after discussing them with Studebaker and Falkowski for about 45 minutes, he said.
“They said it was worthwhile to go,” Fisher said. “The only two that really knows (if it was worthwhile) are those two. I think it might have been a feasible decision and part of the decision-making process to arrive at the best vendor to manage our music center.”
Fisher confirmed there was a trip to South Dakota talked about, but said he “didn’t see any need to do that one and didn’t feel like we needed to spend anymore money.”
Construction on Huber Heights’ music center is expected to be completed by late summer 2014.
The Dayton Daily News has provided in-depth coverage on the Huber Heights music center story since we broke the news last December of the city’s proposal. We will continue to follow this story closely and bring you the latest updates as they develop.
More coverage: For complete local government coverage in the region, visit MyDaytonDailyNews.com.