Chairman: No firm plans for managing arena

Published 1:15 am Wednesday, May 29, 2019

With a lease agreement for the Covington Center Arena set to expire in a month, the Covington County Commission is still taking steps to resume management of the property.

Yesterday, the commission agreed to appoint an advisory council made of five members to brainstorm ideas and events that could benefit the arena.

“We agreed today that we would appoint a committee,” Commission Chairman Greg White said. “And that is less about the management and more about the marketing and proposals for the events that might make sense. Discussion of what sorts of things this group of folks believes has to be in place to run a good event, whether that be high school rodeo or roping or a concert. They would really just do some brainstorming as a group.”

The commission has not decided how it will manage the arena, but White said that he is doing some behind the scenes work.

“I’ve been trying to craft a budget,” White said. “And interacting with the administrator and the attorney to come up with a contract that makes sense moving forward, under the assumption that the county will manage the arena through someone or a combination of people, but the commission hasn’t made a firm decision.”

Don Bullard’s lease on the arena ends on June 30.

Bullard first entered a five-year lease agreement with the county for $12,000 per year for the arena in 2009. The agreement allowed a five-year renewal with the lease increasing $100 per month each year, capping at $1,500 per month, or $18,000 per year.

He covered all operational and maintenance costs, as well as property insurance and $2 million in liability coverage. He estimated he’s lost $250,000 during the years he leased the facility.

At the time it leased the facility, the county was spending $191,050 to operate the arena, according to Star-News archives. The county also was paying $228,348 annually in debt service for the bond issue, which was set to be paid in full by 2032.

It also had entertained an offer in 2009 from the City of Andalusia to manage the facility. The city’s proposal would have required the county to contribute $50,000 toward the operational expenses annually.

“If we decide to operate the arena from an outside manager or contract somebody, we will follow all of the normal hiring procedures,” White said.