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Genesis Center mired in financial woes

AS FINANCIAL WOES plague the Genesis Convention Center, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has pledged to steer more business opportunities to the struggling facility.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, along with City Council members announced they will no longer support any events held outside the city limits that could have been held at the Genesis Convention Center. This decision comes as the City struggles to meet the Genesis Center’s payroll obligation through the end of 2015.

Freeman-Wilson said she will not be attending or supporting any events held outside the city of Gary that could have been held in the city.

“Every time someone has something that is a Gary event, they are literally taking dollars out of our own pockets. With all of that being said, I ask the Council to support the needs of the Genesis Center until the end of January, which would give us an opportunity to sit with its board to find out what their long-term needs are; but more importantly, what their long term plans are in terms of revenue,” stated Freeman-Wilson.

She went to say people make decisions because they can’t always reach people at the Genesis Center. “We want to resolve that. We have some ideas as to how we may be able to partner with the Park Department to work between Marquette and the Genesis Center relative to catering and to the banquet management aspect of both entities. At the end of the day, the Genesis Center is a valuable city asset.”

As of Nov. 24, the Genesis payroll was running a deficit of $23,074. City Controller Celita Green said a $60,000 transfer of casino funds would ensure the payroll is met for the rest of this year.

The mayor asked the Council’s finance committee to review ordinances that would enable the use of $60,000 in money from casino proceeds to fund the convention center payroll for the end of November and all of December.

Green said the problem is that the facility did not generate enough revenue from the events at the convention center to cover the costs of its staff, which includes an interim executive director, a head chef, an events coordinator, a bookkeeper, and a secretary.

In addition, the Center’s manager Gwen Williams recently resigned from her position with no explanation.

Fourth District Councilwoman Carolyn Rogers agreed with the mayor in not supporting organizations that do not use the Genesis Center for their events.

She said, “It is something that I had been thinking about for a long time. There are organizations that have events that are taken outside of the city. It is difficult to give promotional dollars to those organizations that are having their events outside of the city. I agree with the mayor to the point where in 2016, I will not be giving promotional dollars or attending any events outside the city of Gary. I feel very strongly about that.”

Mary Brown, 3rd District Councilwoman, said if the city gives up on places like the Genesis Center and the Hudson- Campbell Fitness Center that could be good for the city of Gary, where does that leave us?

“We need to support the Genesis Center. I, too, support the mayor and Councilwoman Rogers,” shared Brown.

Councilman-at-Large Ron Brewer said a lot of things can happen with the use of the Genesis Center when the city puts its best foot forward and in taking the approach to do something great with it in 2016. “I will stand in support of my colleagues who I will support inside this city come 2016.”

During the public speaking portion of the council meeting, Gary resident Ann Walker offered her opinion as it relates to supporting the Genesis Center and the city of Gary, instead of venues outside the city used by organizations.

“I do no business outside of Gary unless I have to. Whenever there is something held outside of Gary, I don’t go. The Genesis Center is not the only place we have. There’s Lake Etta that is glorious, Marquette Park and the Tolleston Pavilion that is very nice. If they cannot use Gary, Ann Walker is not going.”

The council voted in favor of providing funding for the Genesis Center to receive money through completion of 2015.

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