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The Casper Events Center may receive a seating upgrade after the private contractors who took over the arena in October told City Council that attendance has dropped since the current seats were installed five years ago.

Attendance has declined 10 percent at concerts and 19 percent at Broadway-type events since 2012, according to events center manager Brad Murphy.

“The main reason for this decline, obtained through surveys and social media posts, is the discomfort level of the current seats,” Murphy wrote in a memo to Council.

Murphy works for Spectra Venue Management, the private company that Casper contracted with in the fall to run the Events Center.

Spectra is asking Council to spend about $830,000 to install new seating, a cost that would take over four years to recoup.

Todd Vigil of Hussey Seating Company, which installed the current seats, said the discomfort stems from Council’s instruction in 2012 to install seating with additional padding and cup holders — but to keep the same number of seats in the arena.

That meant there was less overall room for event attendees, since there were larger seats taking up the same amount of space.

“I think the seat is way cramp(ed) for your knees and your butt,” wrote one Facebook user in comments presented to Council.

Spectra also noted that while ticket buyers for the Broadway in Casper series are some of the Event Center’s most loyal, ticket sales have dropped 19 percent since the 2012 seating changes.

Murphy’s proposal calls for removing cup holders, increasing leg room and creating “premium seating areas” with even more space.

The new seating arrangement would reduce capacity at the Events Center by more than 10 percent.

According to Murphy’s presentation, concert capacity would drop from 9,165 to 8,050. Most other types of events would also lose around 1,000 in capacity.

Council directed staff to allow Spectra to pursue the seating upgrades, but the panel would still need to approve any actual purchases in the future.

Casper privatized management of the Events Center, of which it retains ownership, to save money and attract more prominent shows to central Wyoming.

Spectra anticipates the seating upgrades would generate $237,575 in additional annual revenue.

Spectra received a one-time $78,000 fee from the city for “transition costs” and will be paid a $130,000 annual management fee.

On top of that, Casper will pay Spectra up to $994,000 in annual operating expenses, the average annual cost of running the Events Center in previous years.

The company is incentivized to reduce that subsidy and will receive 20 percent of any savings.

For example, if Spectra saves $100,000 for the city, then the company will be paid $20,000.

Under the terms of the deal, Casper can save up to $650,000 per year over the previous cost of running the arena. More likely, Spectra regional vice president Rick Hontz said last fall, is that the company would halve the deficit and save Casper about $250,000 per year.

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