Ford Park management transfers on Monday

Ford Park management transfers on Monday

Come Monday, April 3, the Ford Park Entertainment Complex will be under new management, according to contract amendments filed in Jefferson County Commissioners Court on Monday, March 27. The original terms during contract negotiations would have meant new venue management provider Spectra taking over the helm of Ford Park on March 31, but an extension was necessary pursuant to an agreement to give certain notice to outgoing management company SMG.

SMG had been the management company at the helm of the taxpayer-subsidized venue since its opening 15 years ago. According to county purchasing agent Deb Clark, no bidders competed for the management contract the last time it was up for review. When the contract for Ford Park management came up for bid in 2016, Spectra director of business development and venue management Tom McDonnell began trekking back and forth to Jefferson County until a deal was struck between the two that, according to McDonnell and Jefferson County commissioners, will be beneficial to taxpayers hoping for a revitalized Ford Park.

“We’ve already started,” McDonnell told The Examiner in January of this year, even with the contract work still months away from taking effect. “We want to set ourselves up for success.”

McDonnell said then that a new general manager for the Southeast Texas entertainment complex was in place and readying to get started. He said the new firm is keeping most of Ford Park’s current staff – but could not keep SMG contracted general manager John Hughes, who has a no-compete agreement with SMG that would prevent employment with competitor Spectra.

Spectra’s selection for general manager is 16-year career veteran Claudio Oliveira, who comes to the position experienced in sports and entertainment/facility management, having most recently spent seven years at Spectra-managed Sun National Bank Center in New Jersey as the assistant general manager and general manager.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Oliveira said of being commissioned to grow Ford Park. He said he has been in Beaumont since February, and has enjoyed his new staff cohorts as well as the community at large. “I’m grateful for what SMG has done to get it to the current state, providing great support in this transition process ... and a lot of seasoned professionals.

“I’m looking forward to establishing relationships with our stakeholders and community members – and, of course, having some fun.”

According to Oliveira, he is the only outside employee being brought to Southeast Texas full-time by Spectra, and currently there are only three employee positions up for hire at Ford Park.

McDonnell said Spectra’s first priority, aside from getting its general manager in place, is to perform a facility audit, “going over everything with a fine-tooth comb.”

All along the way, McDonnell promised, Jefferson County stakeholders can be certain of two things: “We’ll do what’s best for the county, and we will be accountable and transparent.

“That’s our form of management.”

County officials have remarked that the hope is to trim costs associated with managing the Ford Park Entertainment Complex, which in the past under SMG cost taxpayers $2 million annually in subsidies to keep open. The current contract with Spectra will allow for diminished compensation to the management provider should the agency not be able to reduce subsidy needs, and is set to expire Sept. 30, 2022.