After a third person chosen for the job backed out, Albany City Manager Al Lott made a surprising move Monday.
Effective immediately, the civic center and municipal auditorium will be under the direction of the recreation and parks department.
Annual acts still come, along with the occasional nationally recognized headliner. But from George Jones to Gucci Mane to the Biggest Show on Earth, none of those acts filled the stands to capacity. Steve Harvey did it back in '07, but it's rare for the Civic Center to have a sell out.
"Albany is a walk up venue. I can't tell you how many big name acts have had to cancel because 4 days before the event nobody bought any tickets," said city manager Al Lott.
That, and the difficulty in finding someone to take the director's job, called for a change in strategy.
Lott said, "What we need to do is market Albany for the right venues. Not just for any venue."
And that responsibility won't be placed on one person. No director necessary, instead the civic center will be under the recreation and parks department. It's a move Lott calls, a logical choice.
"Event management and the bringing about of events to the city of Albany has a recreational purpose. This provides executive direction to that particular component," he said.
"We're excited about this opportunity," said Parks Director Suzanne Davis. She will oversee the arena's operations. She calls the move smart government.
"Initially, we're going to look at the organizational structure at what they're bringing in - their vision and their mission. That's our goal for the next 8 to 10 days - to get an idea of what they currently have," Davis said.
Lott says there will be some re-organizing but current employees will remain in place doing what they've been doing. The parks department will provide executive directions with hopes that niche marketing will bring the acts and the crowds to the venues.
The move, according to Lott, will save the city about $40,000 a year in salaries. He hopes it will build on recent successes such as high school basketball games at the civic center and a sold out dance performance at the auditorium.
Al Lott says the city of Savannah operates its civic center under a similar system.
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