After announcing Memorial Coliseum would face a projected $4.2 million loss this year, Randy Brown, the venue's executive vice president and general manager, made another announcement during Monday's board of trustees meeting – he's retiring Oct. 1.
Brown, 65, has worked for the Coliseum for 33 years, the last 31 as the facility's leader. That makes him the longest-tenured person to hold the post.
The facility's current financial situation did not cause his decision, he said – he had planned to retire last year.
But the pandemic intervened, and he changed his mind – even though the last 15 months have been “the most difficult of my career,” he said.
Because of the pandemic, the venue coped with lost revenue from cancellations and postponements, capacity limits that hindered attendance, increased sanitation demands and more difficulty hiring employees without raising wages.
The 2021 projected loss is more than a million more than the $3.047 million loss during 2020, the board was told.
But venue staff is pursuing both government financial help and new business – income that may help it dig out of a hole by the end of 2022, Brown said.
“It is time for me to move on,” he told the board. “After 33 years, I can't say I enjoyed every minute of it – the last 15 months have been challenging. ... But I've been very fortunate.”
The facility has applied for a $1.9 million Shuttered Venue grant from the federal Small Business Association but has not yet heard back.
And an unprecedented second year of emergency appropriation from Allen County Council is also being sought, Brown said. Until last year, the venue had never sought a subsidy from the county.
The staff is now examining all revenue streams, including room rental and parking, and both are likely to see increases in upcoming months, Brown told the board.
The board also learned of several events that have rebooked, including Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa, Disney on Ice, Mercy Me, the Fort Wayne Farm Show, the Home and Garden Show and the national alpaca show.
The board also got a demonstration of an improvement in the Conference Center – three giant big-screens.
The Daktronics screens are 15 feet high and 25 feet wide and have a 3 millimeter pixel size for increased resolution.
At a cost of $568,225, the screens replace a drop-down projector system installed less than a decade ago but now considered “old technology,” Brown said.
“My goal has always been to leave it (the Coliseum) better than I found it,” Brown said. “Today, it is a state-of-the-art, multipurpose complex of over 1 million square feet that is recognized throughout the country as one of the most successful venues of its type.”
He praised the facility's staff and board, and said the process has started to find a replacement. The search will likely include internal candidates, he said.