The Columbus Civic Center's lobby has undergone a $75,000 renovation that didn't cost taxpayers a cent, according to Civic Center Director Ross Horner.
Through a combination of creative use of talented city labor and an improved contract with Ticketmaster, the Civic Center was able to do more work for less money and pay for it with rebates from the ticket vendor, he explained.
The lobby floor has been recarpeted, the two staircases up to the concourse level have been tiled and the box office booths have undergone a major facelift.
It's the most significant renovation the Civic Center has undergone since it was built in 1996.
When the facility's contract with Ticketmaster expired last year, Horner said, the Request for Proposal process produced much better deals, primarily because the ticket vending business is much more competitive than it was 10 years ago. The bottom line is that the Civic Center would get $7,500 a year in rebates, he said.
He persuaded Ticketmaster to pay all 10 years' worth at once, giving him and his staff $75,000 to work with.
When a bid to resurface and make other improvements to the counters and work stations in the box office came in at $22,000, Horner looked for alternatives. He discovered that the Parks and Recreation Department had an employee, Steve Thomas, who did quality cabinet work, and he was able to get the project done for about $3,700.
In addition to the lobby renovations, Horner has had much of the carpet that once covered the concourse level floors and the lower level on either side of the lobby pulled up. Instead of replacing the carpet, he opted to have the concrete floors polished and leave them bare.
But the lowest bid for that service came in at about $50,000 just for the lower level. So he negotiated with the vendor and persuaded him to train three Civic Center employees to use the machinery and chemicals used in the process.
"He tried to hire two of them, which I was a little uncomfortable with," Horner laughed. "I called the guy and said I'd like to keep these guys on my staff."
Horner, who has worked in similar capacities in San Antonio, Texas, and Bismark, N.D., said he was pleasantly surprised to find not only workers with specialized talent, but a willingness of other departments to cooperate.
"I came from two other cities where you couldn't do that," Horner said. "You couldn't just call another city department and ask if they had, say, an electrician you could use. They'd say, 'Look in the Yellow Pages.'"
Horner is also getting cooperation from two of the Civic Center's primary tenants, the Cottonmouths hockey team and the Lions arena football team. The athletes are pitching in with renovations of the locker rooms.
In addition to the lobby and locker room renovation and floor polishing, Horner is renovating concession stands and making improvements to the facility's mechanical plant. Those improvements will be funded out of the facility's operations budget, he said.