The company that runs the city-owned Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center, among other venues, has filled the position of general manager, vacant since late June.
Jon Dorman, who assumed his duties Oct. 1, comes to Bakersfield with nearly 30 years of experience in venue management, first in Orlando, Fla., and then in Norfolk, Va., where he served as assistant director of that city's seven venues.
"The staff here at the arena and theater have been super-accommodating and welcomed me to the position," Dorman said in an interview Wednesday.
Though Dorman's experience in venue management is extensive, until now he has worked directly for the city whose facilities he managed, never a private company. While the city of Bakersfield owns the Rabobank complex and other venues, it contracts with an outside company to operate those facilities. In March, the city awarded the contract to AEG, a leading sports, entertainment and venue operator that owns, among other properties, the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"When the Bakersfield contract went out to bid, AEG submitted a proposal," Dorman said. "They had to have a list of potential candidates to run the facility, and AEG asked if I'd let them use my name. I said, 'Sure.'"
The move across the country represents a big opportunity for Dorman, 49, who will serve in the role of general manager for the first time in his career.
"I had been assistant general manager and career progression and coming out to the different coast appealed to me," he said. "So it was a matter of the next step in my career."
At this point, Dorman said he's busy getting to know his staff of just under 30 employees and the facilities themselves: the arena, theater, convention center, San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center and Bright House Networks Amphitheatre.
"I've met several times with the city manager and people on his staff and I think the world of them. Coming from a background in city management gives me an ability to understand how city government works."
Dorman is married with an adult daughter, who attends college in Floria. He expects to be joined soon by his wife, who's still in the family home in Florida, but the time alone has allowed him to focus, he said.
"It's important to observe a lot, and that's one of the things about not having your family here. I can be at pretty much everything. The first little bit of time on the job is observing, looking at processes and procedures in place. Find out what's running smoothly and what to leave alone."
The Bakersfield City Council in March approved a 10-year, multimillion-dollar contract for AEG Facilities to manage the city-owned venues, replacing longtime facilities manager SMG. The city loses in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars a year on the complex of facilities.
One of the key factors in AEG's favor was the company's proposal to cover the city's losses on the facilities above $415,718 a year. Losses under SMG's management had been higher.
"We don't want to lose money, obviously," Dorman said. "But it's more about the economic benefits these events bring the city and providing entertainment options. We're creating memories for people."