Savannah leaders to decide if LA-based company will operate civic center, new arena

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah city leaders voted to demolish the decades-old Savannah Civic Center back in June. But, the building won’t be torn down for another three years. Now, leaders are debating who will run the civic center in the meantime, and what will happen to its employees.

Now, the question is — should an outside company come in and run the facility for the next three years?

Savannah city staff recommended that LA-based company Oak View Group oversee operations of both the Savannah Civic Center and the new Savannah Arena. Back in April, the council voted to allow OVG to assist in the design of the new arena, but now if the council agrees the company could take on additional roles — design, as well as operation of both facilities.

“Since they already are operating the other arena eventually, so I think it would be a good political move, physical move, as long as we take care of the employees I think we’ll be ok,” says Mayor Eddie Deloach.

But, not every city leader believes it’s a good idea. There are currently 22 employees at the Savannah Civic Center. The interim director and box office manager left for other jobs. Leaders want to make sure employees will be protected if a new, outside company takes over.

“I think that we need to make sure that our employees that have put their years in at the civic center are protected. I don’t know this gentleman that’s gonna be managing it, I can’t base anything on that other than the fact that he’s an outside company managing our employees,” says Alderman Tony Thomas.

Another city leader has an issue with the Oak View Group’s contract with the city.

“Current employees, council members who have family members who are getting contracts, I think it’s a variety of things. I think again, I’m not sure that this process was as transparent as it should have been,” says Alderman Van Johnson.

Johnson is referring to scrutiny surrounding the city’s handling of OVG’s contract, including the company’s connection to Alderwoman Carol Bell, whose son’s cleaning business is one of Oak View’s proposed subcontractors.

Plans for the new Savannah Arena are moving forward. Groundbreaking for the facility will be held on September 13. Leaders still have to agree on a design for the arena. That could happen on September 12.

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