Councilmembers discuss management change at Fresno Convention Center, could shut Valley businesses out of venues

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Councilmembers discussed a possible management change at the Fresno Convention Center which could leave Valley businesses shut out of the venues.

The change would affect everything from catering to flowers.

SMG has run the downtown convention center for 15 years now.

However, recently, an SMG general manager deemed ineffective by the city was let go.

The city council appeared ready to turn to an all-new management team.

SMG oversees the Fresno Convention Center, the Saroyan Theater and Selland Arena.

The city council was considering a management change from SMG to ASM Global, which manages both domestic and international venues.

The subject drew a testy exchange between Mayor Lee Brand and Councilmember Garry Bredefeld.

"Your solution at the end was let's get a new contract and let's get rid of all of our local people and they're going to save us money," said Bredefeld.

"We're not getting rid of our local people," said Brand.

"But you're trying to and it's not going to happen," Bredefeld said.

A budget analyst told the council the city could save about $500,000 if it went with catering services provided by ASM Global and dropped local caterer Pardini's, which has 400 employees.

"There was a very big time consideration and a misunderstanding of facts when we were called in and basically fired," said Jim Pardini of Jim Pardini's Catering.

City Hall was packed with local vendors and employees worried about their jobs in the middle of the holiday season.

The Central California Women's Conference says their costs would soar if a management change is made.

"If we did not use the ASM preferred vendors, we were advised it would be a tax, penalty, a surcharge of 20-30% that the non-preferred vendor would have to pay," said Victoria Bernhardt of Central California Women's Conference

"I'll be the first one to say I want to keep business local, but we also have to balance the books at the end of the day," said Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias.

Ultimately, the council voted 6-1 to extend the current contract for six months under SMG while continuing negotiations with ASM Global.

The vote to extend the current contract drew applause from the local vendors and workers who didn't want to see an abrupt change. Although, some very difficult decisions still need to be made by the council down the line.
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