Friday, September 12, 2008

Alerus Center turning to "Plan B"

The Alerus Center commission and facility director Steve Hyman recently presented plans to spend millions of dollars remodeling portions of the interior and exterior of the building as part of the Alerus Center's plan to "reinvent" itself. Now, the reinventing seems to have moved beyond mere physical changes. The facility appears poised to debut a whole new genre of events.

"Plan B" is the name that the Alerus Center is giving to their new event format. The Alerus plans to create a new "nightclub style area" for smaller concerts. In the past, such concerts have often skipped over Grand Forks because the city had only very large-scale and very small-scale concert settings...bands that wanted to play more mid-sized venues in the region traditionally performed in places such as The Hub (previously Playmakers) in Fargo. Plan B will be able to take on different formats including a nightclub, a concert hall, or a cabaret.

According to a recent story in the Dakota Student, a Canadian rock band called Big Dick Cadillac is supposed to play at the new venue on October 11 with the U.S. band Lifehouse performing there on October 30. Interestingly, a cached version of the Alerus Center's website lists the October 11 concert, but the current version of the website lists no such concert. The October 30 concert isn't listed on either version.

What do you think of "Plan B?" Is it the kind of thing that Grand Forks needs? What types of concerts or other events would you like to see in Grand Forks? How about the other changes proposed at the Alerus Center? Would spending some money on the facility be a waste or a reasonable investment?


Anonymous said...

If they plan on overhauling that cheap looking "tin can" exterior, then I'm all for throwing more money at the Alerus Center.

Matthew said...

!. Where in the Alerus is this venue going to be? Has it already been built/remodeled (you would think so, if they already have bands booked)?

2. Did they put enough money into designing the sound system? I ask this just because it will come up when the more sound-knowledgeable types read this post. You can't just build a smaller tin can and put some speakers in it in order for it to work.

3. Is this new venue also a bar/restaurant?

4. Where did the Alerus get the money for this, since they seem to be bugging the taxpayers for more at the moment?

Anonymous said...

GF needs a mid sized hall...there isn't one and we miss lots of potential acts...Fritz is tooooobig
empire tooooo small....

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idea. I travel to Fargo & Minneapolis often to see bands. I even go see acts I don't particularly like just cause I love live music. If it works out it would be a great addition.

Anonymous said...

C'mon people, this was one of the prospective uses from the get-go. Scale down part of the convention/banquet area and create a "cabaret" atmosphere. The logical question is, who's the promoter of the events? Meaning, who's taking the risk on the shows. If it's the Alerus Center, this is out of bounce. Again, very simply competing with the private sector. On the other hand, it's probably too risky for a private promoter once they pay all the associated costs and fees.

It's so simple, these types of events belong in a private establishment where the venue can recognize all the revenue sources; door revenue/ticket revenue, food and beverage, etc.

It's also very sad that the public has apparently become so apathetic that the Alerus operators can operate so recklessly. A concert fund was established for these types of events and no such performances ever materialized. Also, the concert fund is gone.

Regarding production costs...sound, lights, staging, etc. The Alerus/citizens would be crazy to invest in this resource. The cost-benefit will never be there. And, then again, a private promoter couldn't cash-flow the overhead consistently to make promoting shows worth their while. Meaning the costs to hire a private sound and lights contractor on a per event basis, talent, venue rent, advertising, etc. And, cover all the costs and make a buck on the event.

People need to realize that The Hub in Fargo is cashed-flowed by a VERY wealthy local businessman who evidently has a passion to dabble in the entertainment business regardless of turning a profit.

So, YES, some shows would fly...soar actually. But, private promoters would eventually get bit, bit hard. And, again, The Alerus presenting their own shows is out of bounce. If the Commission is willing to stand up and profess that they are doing this out of MAJOR desperation, and there's a member charismatic enough to sell this idea to the community, they can proceed. But, it is ABSOLUTELY and COMPLETELY unfair to the little guy running their own business and going up against a publicly funded facility. I think it's obvious however with the history of how some members of Commission have acted and operated that they could care less about the effect on local businesses. They're desperate to prove to the community that their idea to develop The Alerus from the get-go wasn't, and isn't, a failure.

If I was a betting man, I'd put money down this may be a ploy by Alerus Bank. Put it out there that a cabaret setting and series is being created, create a buzz, and then come in on their white horse and announce that they're the sponsors of the series.

Maybe it's time Alerus Bank stand up and say they're executing an entertainment series to enrich the community and give back to the people. They could cover any and all shortages on the events and even go out and obtain co-sponsors on the events.

Alerus Bank, it's time to contact the fantastic Regional promoters, sit down with them and put together a series. All parties are compensated for their time and efforts, and again, if an event fails, the bank covers the shortages. Makes sense but, any successful events will come (partially) at the cost of their local competitors.

What do you all think? Is there an Alerus Bank or Commission member charismatic enough to stand up and sell this idea to the community? It seems pretty simple to me. Keep the venue out of any risk on the events and let them realize the food and beverage sales.

I would be remiss not to add that it is no surprise that The Alerus is in this desperate predicament. It was obvious from the get-go that the two major projected functions of The Alerus were simply not viable. That being a major arena-size concert destination and a Regional convention center. The few who relentlessly campaigned for the venture were wrong. Sorry for the rehash, it needs to be said.

Clean house of Alerus Bank's influence on the Commission and Operations and let them stand back and cash flow events.

It would be a win-win for all.

Anonymous said...

GF is reminiscent of a medieval Italian city-state, run by a minute aristocracy who see to it that the masses pay for their expensive whims. The only thing absent is a powerful Church legitimizing this feudal system.

Anonymous said...

Either stay in your basement, or go shut your drapes an hibernate. If Grand Forks didn't have the Alerus, many of the Canadian visitors would be bypassing Grand Forks and spending their money in Fargo, because the Alerus has spawned many spinoff businesses that thrive from entertainment. There would be less restaurants and shopping venues without the Alerus. I realize this doesn't benefit you, because you just want to stay in your house and complain.

Anonymous said...

And we all know that it is precisely those spinoff business that have generated the high-paying jobs we would all apply for at the drop of a hat: waitress, clerk, bartender, parking lot attendant...

Anonymous said...

This is AWESOME news. Finally. We have been saying this for years.... can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Yes because high paying jobs are all the more likely to come to a town without an sizable portiton of eating places, hotels, and an event center. Tool.

jwgreen said...

I believe that the upcoming concerts are a trial, and will probably be happening in the ballrooms (with temporary modifications). I'm assuming the sound system, lighting, and backline will be brought in, as the Alerus doesn't have this equipment. If this trial works, they would probably move forward with creating the venue perminantly. Alternatly, it could end up like the Gate City Bank Theatre in the Fargodome, where the venue is created within another one for specific events (I know the club isn't a theatre type venue, but a simmilar transformation can be done without building a whole new facility...)

The Gate City Bank Theatre idea has worked well for the Fargodome, and while it certainly doesn't hold the class that say the Chester Fritz holds, it still feels like you're in a theatre instead of an arena. Making the transition to a club from ballrooms would be a lot easier than a theatre from an arena.

I doubt they would go the route of just slapping a quonsite hut onto the side of the building. If they do make an addition or renovation, I'm sure they would want to do it right.

Anonymous said...

Plan B... seriously? All that makes me think of the the day after birth control pill sold under the same name.

Anonymous said...

What was the source for this?

Tommy S. said...

Good idea. A mid sized hall means Styx won't have to play casinos and fairs. Hurray!

Anonymous said...

The answer to all of the questions made by comments is : Larry O'Connell. He will save GF entertainment industry ! greenglass4

Anonymous said...

So the former manager of the Crown Colony is the answer to GF's entertainment industry? The place has had finacial problems dating back to the late 70's, while he was manager of it, and when it was taken over, he sued First Fedral Bank and Erin Hotels for back pay, which the supreme court of North Dakota decided wasn't due him... So I'm going to go ahead and say that a no...

Downtown Edge said...

I'm really glad to hear of a Hub (Playmakers) -sized venue coming to town. Most of the acts I'd want to see would play there and at a cost I'd probably be willing to pay (i.e., less than top-billed acts). Great to hear the many initiatives coming from the Alerus Center's new manager. I do hope that some public-private partnerships can be worked out, but the private sector on its own hasn't filled this entertainment void that has been apparent to many of us for years. As long as there's enough accountability for the public not to have to support such a venture after a brief piloting period, I'm all for it!

Anonymous said...

"I doubt they would go the route of just slapping a quonsite hut onto the side of the building."

Yeah, It's already attached to the Canad Inn right now.

Anonymous said...

So, did Matt Damon get the part? Does anybody know? I caught a brief snippet of what I assume was as an audition tape for "The Useful Idiot". He'd be perfect for the part.

Anonymous said...

Oops, the above post was meant for the open thread below.

Anonymous said...

I like the name Plan B. It's got an urban edge.

And I love the first band they've booked...Lifehouse.

And believe me, I haven't been a cheerleader for the Alerus. Maybe they've got things turned around.

Anonymous said...

If the Alerus got things "turned around" what would people on this blog have to bitch about?

Anonymous said...

Re: The Alerus presenting their own shows is out of bounce.
you had this longwinded post and twice you made reference to "being out of bounce"
What the hell does that mean?? Did you mean to say "out of bounds"?

Anonymous said...

First off, Plan B is what anyone does when their first choice 'Plan A' does not pan out. Plan B is an alternative to your first choice.
Does the Alerus's new event want to be 'second choice' all the time?
Second, Plan B is the name of the moring after pill to prevent pregnancy AFTER a night of sexual contact.
Bad marketing choice for this venue.

From what I understand from the article, the Alerus is trying this out on a trial basis. They will use a ballroom on the north end of the conference center. I bet they put down their wedding dance floor for people, but all seats woudl be regualar type used in conferences, set up in rows. They don't have raised seating do they?
If they use the room that enters into Playmakers at Canad, that would be nice: then people can get beer etc during breaks or maybe even go back and forth.
I am willing to give it a shot to see if it works. I do like the group coming Oct. 30.
This is a better alternative than trying to do a half house concert in the arena and have the atmosphere be just too big and wide open.

IanMore said...

They are probably planning on it being just like the OTHER SHOW'S they've already done in the ballroom.

Thrice with Dashboard Confessional Anyone? I think Motion City Soundtrack was on that bill also

New Found Glory, with reggie and the full effect with Eisley?

This isn't the first time they've done concerts in the ballroom. Which yes, that is where this is... The only problem is that they are charging an INSANE amount for that... I can go to playmakers and spend 25 bucks for a show.

Or... I go to the alerus and spend 40 bucks on a show!? hhhmmm let me figure out the answer to that choice..

Why so much? You look at lifehouse's tour and it looks like this will be a fly date. its no where near their touring they have now.

New Found Glory and such tickets were 20 bucks. Thrice was the same also I believe...

Give me a price that makes sense then I'll go. Lifehouse would be a great act, but 40 bucks? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Citizens need to understand how *their* Alerus Center works. The previous reference to former ballroom shows is not apples to apples. Those shows were private promoters renting the facility and presenting a show. The Plan B shows are all Alerus Center. The center takes the risk, the center loses the money.

Ianmore said...

to Anon at 9:36am I was guessing those were private promoters. But its still the same general idea.

If most people understood how "their" alerus center works, they would wonder why they would even do concerts. There is more money to be made in corporate and wedding events. You can charge more for those and have less man hours invested into them.

I don't see why people are making this any different than their bigger shows? Don't they also take the risk on those one's?

Anonymous said...

12:15, wrong dude.

There are two primary functions of The Alerus; because there are essentially two operations. An arena and a convention center. Your oversimplification is hurting your credibility; big time. In the case of the arena portion, it's been proven there is essentially no market in Grand Forks for major touring concerts. The problem is, the arena just sitting there empty generates millions of dollars of costs for the owners; the citizens of Grand Forks.

Now, you refer to corporate events and weddings in the convention center and their profitability. You are VERY wrong on this account. The convention center has dummied down their offerings to attack the local market. Why? It's simple, so the supporters can attempt to save face. Take a look at the original menus and marketing materials when the center opened, these all contained what's known as "regional prices". They were roughly, 2x the market prices. Now, the facility, personnel, and menu prices have been dummied down to attack, yes ATTACK, the local market. Why? Again, for the supporters to try save face.

You think the convention center can do enough business at local pricing levels to float the arena sitting empty? Seriously? You may want to think your conclusions through some more. These are very simple business concepts.

What are you talking about in your last paragraph? The arena portion? It's a rental facility. They don't take risk. They contract a date, collect rental fees, and the promoters take the risk.

Unfortunately, apparently some back-room deals were made to entice promoters to bring tours here. Again, so the supporters could attempt to save face. Evidently, the 200K "concert fund" was recklessly spent on this back-room policy. But, it's hard to draw a correct conclusion because The Herald refuses to report on the fund.

I hope this helps clear things up for you.

Anonymous said...

What a STUPID name.

James said...

What the Alerus Center, and other venues in Grand Forks need to realize is that they have decent facilities for a wide range of events. The Alerus Center does not need a ballroom club for smaller concerts. People constantly compare what Grand Forks supposedly lacks to that of Fargo. I'll tell you right now Grand Forks has a lot more going ,in terms of venues than Fargo. Grand Forks doesn't have The Hub but it does have the Chester Fritz, which Fargo has nothing like. Grand Forks needs to simply step back in utilize all the great things it already has. I think it would see that it can do a lot better then it currently is. People will drive from Fargo and especially Canada to well promoted events in this town.

Smaller shows like the upcoming Disturbed or Lifehouse concerts should be at the Fritz. Has anyone ever been to a good rock concert at a venue like the Fritz? It beats the heck out of any arena show. In larger cities a venue like the Fritz is often the preferred site to watch a show because of close site lines and full intelligible sound. The Fritz is quite similar to venues such as the Smirnoff Ice facilities throughout the country. These kinds of places always have the best shows and are usually sold out.

People need to support shows, especially concerts, like these in a town of this size to keep the venues interested in future contracts. I know the Fritz does not support shows, primarily rock concerts, because they attempted in the past and lost out due to poor attendance. You would be amazed what local suggestions and interests would do to impact the kind of events we see here. It's venues like the Fritz, Alerus, and Ralph that make this town second to none.

Grand Forks should pride itself on what it has and continue to strive in bringing all types of culturally diverse events to the city. It's what makes Grand Forks and it's venues special, and better then any mid-size city in the upper Midwest.