Meridian Center contract to be terminated

Chad Frey
The Kansan
The city is looking to take operations of the Meridian Center in-house and terminate a management agreement that has been in place since the facility opened. [KANSAN FILE]

The city of Newton will decide Tuesday on the future of operations of the Meridian Center, a conference and event center constructed on E. Broadway by the city in July 2011. 

Since the center opened, it has been operated by Kemper Sports under an agreement with the city. Kemper sports also operates Sand Creek Station Golf Course. 

The move was brought on by COVID-19 and increased competition in the event center industry.

“The situation has changed,” said city manager Kelly McElroy during an October meeting in which the issue was discussed with the commission. “COVID has changed, our market has changed. The center’s mission needs to grow and change over time to meet the need of the community.”

A mutual termination agreement will come before the city commission Tuesday for adoption. It specifies that the city and Kemper have mutually agreed to terminate the current management agreement as of Dec. 31.

Termination of the agreement would mean the city could avoid paying management fees to Kemper Sports. The city paid $65,000 in management fees in fiscal year 2020.

“During the first nine years of operation the center exceeded expectations by hosting hundreds of conferences, meetings, social events and weddings each year,” McElroy wrote in a memo to members of the Newton City Commission.

Assistance for operations from the city has varied, but in recent years the city has put $50,000 into an equipment reserve fund and used the economic development fund to pay $100,000 for operations.