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Corbin officials air out expo center complaints

Parking, opening times at issue

Corbin city leaders publicly aired issues with the Southeast Kentucky Agriculture and Exposition Center during the regular monthly meeting of the city's Board of Commissioners Monday.

Front and center was consternation over what some commissioners perceived as the facility not opening early enough on event nights so that ticket holders can go inside. A single entrance to the expo center, which is located on a hill off Cumberland Falls Hwy., coupled with a lack of paved parking areas has caused problems with parking at the arena site.

"We have had numerous complaints," City Commissioner Phil Gregory told Cliff Clinger, General Manager of  The Arena. "They just get mad when they have to rush up there [early] to get a parking spot, but then have to wait to get in the doors. I worked in business and if I seen a customer outside and he was shaking and cold I let him in so he won't go anywhere else."

Officials have noted problems with wait times to get in the building, which typically opens one hour before all shows, because so many people are trying to enter at one time through a limited number of entrances.

Clinger said the practice of opening the facility one hour before shows are scheduled to start is "an industry standard from city to city" and that the promoters who rent The Arena don't want the general public inside any sooner.

"That's what the promoter is paying for, an hour. Anytime we open that door earlier, that cost is going to come back to us and come back to the city," Clinger said.

While not opposed to the idea of opening doors an hour and a half or even two hours before a show, Clinger said he could not make any changes immediately because The Arena's current contracts with promoters are already in place.

"I need to put that into some contracts. I can't tell you it will happen immediately,  but we are amenable to that. We will certainly implement that."

Frustrated, Gregory pressed the issue by saying the city owns the building and ought to be able to make some decisions about when the doors open. Clinger is an employee of SMG Worlwide Events Management, a Philadelphia based company hired by the city to manage The Arena.

"All we want to do is open the door and let us in to sit down," Gregory said.

Clinger countered by noting that the building does not have a large entryway or closed concourse where people can go while artists are doing light testing and sound checks - times they typically do not want the general public to view.

"I'm not fighting with you and I'm not disagreeing with you," Clinger said. "Just give me a little time to do that."

The Commission set into motion plans to address one of The Arena's other major problems - parking. Currently, a large portion of the planned parking area around the structure is simply gravel or has no improved surface at all. During larger shows, parking has been allowed at nearby churches and empty lots with shuttles taking patrons up to the facility. The commission voted Monday to authorize city manager Bill Ed Cannon to advertise for bids for stone and paving of those areas. He said the move could add up to 400 parking spots.

Commissioner Dennis Lynch said the process needed to be completed as soon as possible to accommodate more vehicles. By law, the city must allow at least seven days from the times a request for bids are publicly advertised to receive them before consideration. Bidding must be closed after 21 days.

Commissioner Bruce Farris expressed concern that short-selling the bidding process could lead to fewer, less competitive bids.

"Is seven days long enough to allow for adequate bids," Farris said. "I don't think we should be in a rush on it."
Lynch said he felt parking improvements at The Arena have been proceeding too slowly.

The state has promised to give the city $300,000 to help with the cost of extra paving at the site. Cannon said the funds would not likely be available until June or July.

In other business, the commission:

* Voted to allow Cannon to seek bids to hire an engineer to assess and come up with a plan to correct a rock and earth slide that is threatening the Corbin Center for Technology and Community Activities.

Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney noted that "just in the last few weeks" the slide has gotten worse. Cannon said he feared it could damage the back wall of the Tech Center, an over $2 million structure.

"The problem has already started," Cannon said. "If you don't address it and correct it you can waste a lot of money and it will just get worse."

Gregory criticized construction on the site as the reason for the slide.

"If that job was done right, we shouldnít even have a slide," Gregory said.

Cannon noted that the problem appeared because the road above it has caused rainwater to run off instead of slowly soaking down into earth and stone that was there before. He said an engineer could design a drainage system and come up with a way to hold the slide at bay.

Lynch criticized the hiring of an engineer as unnecessary, saying the city did not need to spend money on someone to just "tell us it's sliding."

"We got a bad slide up there, but I don't know why we need an engineer to tell us that," Lynch said.
Cannon likened fixing the slid to brain surgery.

"I'd hate to spend thousands of dollars based on somebody that doesn't have the expertise," he said. "If I'm going to have brain surgery I'm going to get a doctor that knows how to do brain surgery."

The Commission, including Lynch, voted unanimously to advertise for engineering services following the moderately lively debate.

* Approved a request for $5,000 from Corbin Economic Development Director Bruce Carpenter. The money will be used to help pay for the Corbin Economic Development Agency's participation in a series of marketing trips planned by the Kentucky Association for Economic Development and the state Economic Development Cabinet. Carpenter said trips to Dallas, Chicago, New York, Atlanta and another to be determined city are being planned. Shorter trips to Indianapolis and Columbus are also on the agenda.

Carpenter said the KAED and the Cabinet have developed a marketing plan for the state. During the trips, economic development directors will get to meet with site planning experts and corporate executives in an attempt to sell the state, and their areas, as a good place to do business.

The Corbin Chamber of Commerce, the Tri-County Industrial Authority, The Corbin Industrial Development Commission and the Southeast Kentucky Industrial Development Authority area all also helping to bankroll the plan.

* Took two bids under advisement for installation of lights at athletic fields at the Corbin Civic Center site.

* Discussed, but decided to not approve funds for four field goals for athletic fields. Lynch questioned the cost of the steel being purchased for the field goals. He consulted Kenneth Pennington, who was in the audience at the meeting. Pennington said he felt the cost of the steel was too high, so the Commission decided to wait until further investigation into the issue is complete. City leaders were being asked to approved $2,500 to $3,000 for the steel.

* Recognized the Corbin High School Dance Team recently returned from national competition.

* Authorized Cannon to advertise for applications for a permanent Chief of Police. For the past two months, retired Kentucky State Police Detective David Campbell has held the position. He has said he is interested in being hired on a permanent basis.
Cannon said the city plans to accept applications until May 1. They will be reviewed by the personnel board and a recommendation on the most qualified candidate will be made at the next regular meeting.



Donn and Mary Wirtz (April 15, 2009) Reply

I sent this formal letter of complaint to Brandon on April 5, 2009 and Brandon said he would forward it to Mr. Clinger but again The Arena has disappointed us. We have heard nothing from either of these businessmen. The only response we have received was a "Read Receipt" from Brandon's email address so we know you heard our complaint, we just wish you would listen to it. Donn and Mary Wirtz Mr. Cliff Clinger and Brandon Yaconis, This is a formal complaint concerning the 7:00 pm circus on April 3 2009. I bought 9 tickets for my entire family and we had looked forward to the circus for over a month especially my granddaughters. I would like to tell you a little about our experience: Because we all live in Somerset a few of us left work early just so we would be there on time. Gathering everyone together we headed for Corbin Exit 29 (which is what said to do) after arriving at Exit 29 we were confused because everyone said the Arena is right off the Exit you can't miss it Oh yeah it's right off EXIT 25 not Exit 29. First blunder of the evening. The second mistake of the day was we only arrived 25 minutes early (might of had something to do with that Exit thing). We were in 3 separate cars and my husband and myself were in front, our one daughter and her daughter were a few cars behind us and our second daughter with her husband and 3 daughters were a few cars behind them. We sat in 2 lanes of traffic for probably 30 minutes and were finally in the parking lot. We pulled into a lined parking space and a fellow in a yellow shirt yelled "you can't park there you have to come on back here". It is now a few minutes after 7:00 and we are told we have to move, we were not in any emergency lane or special space, we were parking next to another car. But we got back in the car and pulled into the back of the Arena where we met our daughter and granddaughter. Someone said we could go to the back door to get in which was great; we would be just a few minutes late. Just as the young man at the back door was taking our tickets my cell phone rang. It was our other daughter. She and her family were in the parking lot ready to turn in to park when a fellow in a yellow shirt said she would have to turn around and go back down the hill and catch the bus. Bus?? What bus?? We had heard nothing about a bus until she was directed to leave the parking area and go back down the hill to catch one. She did what the fellow told her to do and guess what? When she got to the bottom of the hill and tried to catch the bus it was full. So here she and her husband stand with a 7 year old, a 2 year old and a 9 month old waiting on a bus. But then when I think back I do remember seeing a school bus with probably 4 people on it come up the hill while hundreds of cars sat in traffic. I believe if people had known there was a bus a few more people, ourselves included, might have taken it. At this point we are so frustrated with this whole circus thing I am in tears. We get in the door and are looking for our seats when a lady with a yellow shirt on asks if she can help us. I asked to see a manager and that is when we met Larry Siler, who did his best to defuse the situation and try to calm me down. Although Mr. Siler did his best and was quite sympathetic to our situation he directed us to another female (I am not sure who she was) who was quite cheerful and smiling a lot but did nothing to help the situation in fact Mr. Siler finally asked her to go outside and then he took us to meet you, Brandon. And you directed us to put our complaint in writing and forward it to you and to Mr. Cliff Clinger. So here it is and with it comes some advice as you and Mr. Siler said everything is a learning experience. Your parking situation is completely unacceptable; you should have a parking area large enough to handle the number of tickets you sell and you obviously do not! But if you have to use another off site parking area you should have that area clearly marked. Don’t leave your patrons sitting in lines of traffic and then turn them around… if you know you can only park X number of cars when you get close to X have one of the fellows in the yellow shirts go down to the bottom of the hill and start showing people where to park and where to catch the bus. Don’t leave people sitting in their cars and making them late for the event. Maybe you should think about opening a 3rd lane into the facility, with one lane going to the right side of the parking area, a second lane going to the middle of the parking area, and the third lane going to the left side of the parking area and when you get close to capacity start parking them down the hill Leaving the Arena is not really a problem, as people are not going to a scheduled event But having the police direct traffic was great! 2. Be more aggressive with your shuttle bus advertising and encourage people to use it 3. Exit 25 is much easier than Exit 29 use it in your advertising and insist your vendors use it also 4. Have all of your employees know where all the restrooms are located (this is a little petty but another point of frustration for the evening). We asked a lady in a yellow shirt and she said, "I'm not sure if there are any down that way or not. But I know there are some on the other side of the Arena” so we walked all the way over to the other side Although our first impression (of which you only get one) of your facility is not a pleasant one. We do want you to know that we think you have a nice facility, with comfortable seating. And I appreciated the fact that our complaints were heard however I think my family and I deserve more than a lukewarm apology. And Brandon, you and Mr. Siler said repeatedly “give us another chance”. Why should we? My formal complaint is that 7 of us never saw the first 25 minutes of the show through no fault of our own and as hard as we tried to enjoy the show it really wasn't very much fun. I think we deserve a refund. We have already ordered 2 tickets to see "Larry the Cable Guy” at your facility and we were thinking of ordering 6 more but your response to this letter will determine whether our family spends any more money at your facility. Donn and Mary Wirtz

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