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Grand Forks' Alerus Center reports strong 2018

Alerus Center Building Mug

Grand Forks city staffers, council members and the mayor heard an upbeat progress report from the Alerus Center at an Event Center Commission meeting Wednesday.

This was the city-owned Alerus Center's first year under new management by Spectra, a national venue company that took over last July.

Directors from each department updated the council on their growth. In short, the center is bringing in more money, reorganizing its departments and maximizing outreach efforts.

"I can't tell you how pleased I am with the direction you're going," Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown told the Alerus Center staff. "It's exciting to see things go the right way after years of seeing things not go well."

Though the Alerus took a painful $400,000 hit last year, Regional Vice President of Spectra Rick Hontz told the city his company has followed through with many of the goals it set for the center. "I'm proud to say we've done that and we're leading things in the right direction," he told the city.

Alerus Center Manager Anna Rosburg, who started started last year, reported the arena has already had three concerts and one family event in 2018, which each exceeded the center's 8,500-ticket threshold. Since July 2017, she added the center had 23 ticketed events excluding UND football, 16 of which were touring acts.

"We're trying to provide diverse entertainment to our community and drive economic impact," Rosburg said.

Perhaps the center's budgets reveal its progress best, Rosburg said. For 2018, the center budgeted for 438 events, which she said it's on track to accomplish. In 2019, the center plans to budget for 456 events—for comparison, the center only had 326 events in 2017.

To reduce confusion among clients and create a better workplace environment, Rosburg told the city the center has also reorganized its management to better address three top industry best practices: partnerships, event management and conference sales and marketing.

Dan Ange, the director of events, said under previous management the center had a rotating "manager-of-the-day," and clients would book events with someone one day and not have a point of contact for further questions and concerns. He said his department restructured the chain of command so clients can have a more consistent experience.

Several directors in Wednesday's meeting also talked about the support they have received from Spectra's national leadership, through regular phone calls and training events. This support has helped the center revive itself over the last year, Rosburg added. "There were some challenges before we were here with some touring acts," she said, "and we needed to go back and repair those relationships."

Marketing efforts include a new website that's compatible with recent technology, a stronger presence on social media and more interactive promotions, Director of Marketing Riley Simenson said, showing city staffers and council members pictures of a promotion in which child care centers competed to have a monster truck come to their facility before an event at the Alerus Center.

City Administrator Todd Feland told the city and the commission they should should set up another annual meeting for next year, adding the city will receive regular updates over the next 12 months.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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