BULLHEAD CITY — Todd Flora admits that running the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse has been a learning experience.
For everyone involved.
“There are a lot of challenges,” said Flora, superintendent of the Colorado River Union High School District, owner of the $32 million fieldhouse north of the Mohave Crossroads shopping center in Bullhead City. “It’s one thing to build it. It’s another thing to run it.”
Flora also admitted that there have been mistakes made during the first year of the fieldhouse’s existence. Built as a result of a bond issue passed by CRUHSD voters, the fieldhouse opened in May. Flora was selected in March to become superintendent but didn’t officially begin his new job until July 1.
He became the third CRUSHD superintendent involved with the fieldhouse, following Riley Frei, who was superintendent when the bond issue was proposed and passed, and Benje Hookstra, superintendent when the facility opened.
Ed Catalfamo is the third fieldhouse general manager, following Frei, who was reassigned by the CRUHSD board to became project manager during the construction, and Gary Boren, hired to be the first full-time general manager. Boren resigned last January after less than three months on the job, citing health reasons.
Anderson Auto Group bought naming rights in June of 2018, while the facility still was under construction, in a five-year, $625,000 agreement announced by Frei.
Anderson’s agreement covers only the naming rights; Flora said he had assumed — incorrectly — that Anderson had some exclusivity in other areas.
“I was definitely under the impression that we had an exclusive contract with Anderson,” he said Friday, adding that he found out the language of the contract limited that exclusivity to naming rights for five years. “It was a naming rights agreement.”
He said there apparently was an “unwritten assumption of exclusivity” but there was — and is — no exclusivity other than for naming rights.
“We clarified that,” Flora said.
Flora and Catalfamo were joined by others — including representatives of the City of Bullhead City, Anderson Auto Group and Findlay Motor Company — to review contracts and policies after confusion emerged earlier this year over who could and couldn’t be involved in events at the fieldhouse.
“I think there might have been some misunderstanding about exclusivity,” said Scott Taylor, marketing director for Anderson Auto Group. He, like Flora, thought it was in the contract. It wasn’t.
Taylor called the fieldhouse “an amazing thing” with “huge” potential. He said Anderson is proud to be involved in its present and future.
“It’s a new venture,” he said, adding that Anderson has committed not only $625,000 for the five-year naming rights but has been an active partner in staging and supporting events at the facility.
“We’ve been at everything,” he said. “We’ve had people volunteering at most of the events. We see it as a form of community involvement.”
Anderson’s role as name sponsor has led some to assume that some other businesses couldn’t be involved in fieldhouse events. Flora said no one can replace the name, but other businesses, including automobile dealerships, can enter into rental agreements to use the facility or appear as third-party vendors at other events.
The naming rights and existing agreements are but a few of the issues the district has been forced to address in the fieldhouse’s first nine months of operation.
“There has been some confusion about who can, who can’t” use the facility, Flora said. “Everyone is eager to get in.”
Can the district enter into agreements — or prohibit contracts — with vendors whose products or services aren’t suited for students? Can a third-party renter, holding a valid agreement with the district to conduct an event, enter into a parallel agreement with other vendors without district approval?
Those questions still are being addressed.
“We’re working to work those kinks out,” Flora said, adding that the goal is to be “fair, firm and consistent.”
An absence of consistency and transparency, he said, “will open up a can of worms.”
A few of the worms already have escaped the can. More likely will.
“We’ll probably stumble through it and make some mistakes,” Flora said. “But we’ll learn from them.”
Marijuana dispensaries, casinos and alcohol-related companies are among businesses that create some concern.
“We are still a school district,” Flora said. As such, the district may be limited by state statutes, state school board or local school board policies.
“We’re still wrangling through that,” Flora said, adding that if an issue arises, “I’ll turn to my attorney for interpretation. I think that’s the safest way forward.”
He said district officials still are “trying to draft the right language” to cover some potential agreements.
“We want to be cautious,” he said. “We have to be mindful ... that we are a school district. The attorneys still are going to have to walk through things.”
Alcohol is allowed in the fieldhouse, but not at district-sponsored events when students may be present. Third-party renters must apply for a city liquor license for the right to serve alcohol — if the district agrees that it would be appropriate for the event and the city approves the licensing.
Flora said the size and purpose of the event dictates what may or may not be appropriate. Weighed will be the impact on and cost of safety and security.
“How big is the event? What is involved?” he asked rhetorically. “Those things enter into it.”
He said the issues that have emerged have “been a learning process.”
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We are really trying to make it work for everyone.”