Millennium operators trying to gauge impact of ETSU facility

Nathan Baker • May 29, 2014 at 9:54 AM

The Johnson City board overseeing the Millennium Centre and the management company contracted to operate the meeting and conference venue want to know how East Tennessee State University’s planned fine and performing arts center will impact business.

The members of the Public Building Authority agreed Wednesday at the board’s regular monthly meeting to send an expansive list of questions to university President Brian Noland, Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson and Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin to try and determine if the city-owned Millennium Centre will be competing with the $38 million performing arts center for contracts or if the new building could bring in new opportunities for revenue.

Ken Misterly, general manager of the Johnson City convention center for Sodexo Conferencing, wrote the 29 multi-part questions at the behest of the board after a request from Noland for needed information.

Misterly’s list covers a wide range of topics, from catering receptions and the opportunities to host them to building design and if the new center, once built, will block the view of the Millennium Centre from West State of Franklin Road.

“For us, the Culp Center is a competitor,” Misterly said, noting that some campus departments and organizations can use the ballroom in the D.P. Culp University Center with no rental fee. “If we have a second similar competitor, as we look at our business model, and ETSU being one of our top three customers, what’s the impact to us?”

Misterly said the university, with the main campus directly across West State of Franklin from the Millennium Centre, provides the meeting venue with 15 percent of its annual bookings revenue.

ETSU is currently in talks with city leaders to purchase the property known as Lot 1, adjacent to the meeting venue.

Plans are not yet set for the performing arts center, but college officials have expressed desires for a large theater, a smaller recital hall and instructional space in the building.

But the new venue next door could mean an increase of business for the Millennium Center, as well, if pre- and post-performance events are held there.

If the performing arts center is counted as a campus building, alcohol won’t be allowed to be served there, but a cocktail event could be held next door, Misterly said.

And while the large-scale venue is being built, Public Building Authority Chair Mike Eddy said ETSU may be interested in renting more of the center’s rooms for instructional purposes.

“(Noland) said he would come here physically and respond to our questions,” Eddy said. “I’d say most of these, he can’t respond to at this point, but they’re great questions and need to be addressed.”Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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