Stadium board’s director to resign
War Memorial Stadium Commissioner Brenda Scisson of Little Rock said Monday that she hates to see Cohen leave because Cohen has done a “great job,” but she understands that Cohen has been presented with “a tremendous offer” from a company with more “reali
The War Memorial Stadium Commission’s executive director, Jerry Cohen, is departing for another job, state Department of Parks and Tourism Director Kane Webb said Monday.
Webb said Cohen received a job offer with better pay and better hours, and he’s leaving as of next Monday. Cohen’s salary as stadium director is $86,401 a year, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.
Webb said Cohen has been the executive director for a few years and worked many years at the stadium. Webb referred questions about the nature of Cohen’s new job to Cohen, who could not be reached for comment by telephone and email at the stadium on Monday.
Cohen submitted his resignation to Webb and two other department officials in an email dated July 26 — 10 days before Saturday night’s Guns N’ Roses concert at the stadium.
Cohen wrote, “I have been presented an opportunity that I absolutely cannot pass on.
“I have been struggling with this decision for the past couple of weeks. I have evaluated my situation both personally and professionally and the opportunity presented to me is the best for myself and my family. My plans are to work through the concert,” Cohen said in his email.
“I realize this could not come at a worse time, but this is an opportunity as I stated, for me both personally and professionally. I thank you for the opportunity you have afforded me as the stadium manager.”
War Memorial Stadium Commissioner Brenda Scisson of Little Rock said Monday that she hates to see Cohen leave because Cohen has done a “great job,” but she understands that Cohen has been presented with “a tremendous offer” from a company with more “realistic” working hours.
Webb said Monday that “in anticipation of his departure, we moved Shea Lewis, one of our top regional supervisors, to the stadium a week ago to serve as interim director.
“We don’t anticipate that to be a permanent shift for Shea,” who is not getting a pay raise for the additional duties, Webb said. Lewis’ salary is $ 62,503 a year, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.
The department plans to hire a new stadium manager and “as to when, it’s as soon as we find the right candidate,” Webb said. “We will advertise the job.
“We also have temporarily assigned two park professionals to assist in the stadium operation,” he said, referring to Ron Salley, superintendent of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, and John Latch, assistant superintendent for Mississippi River State Park.
Webb said there are six full-time employees at the stadium, “but we have used some [Department of Parks and Tourism] manpower to assist when and where appropriate.”
The stadium has been under the control of the Department of Parks and Tourism since Feb. 22 when Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed legislation — now Act 269 of 2017 — immediately merging the free- standing War Memorial Stadium Commission into the department. The eight- member commission continues to be appointed by the governor under Act 269, but its actions are subject to approval of the parks and tourism director, who is Webb.
The Republican governor has proposed cutting the stadium’s general revenue funding roughly in half to $ 447,647 in fiscal 2019, which starts July 1, 2018, with the long- term aim of making the stadium self-sufficient. The Republican-controlled Legislature will consider that proposal during its fiscal session, starting in February.
Webb said he hopes to get a report in October from a Texas-based company conducting a feasibility study on the future of the stadium. The department has a $ 160,000 contract with Conventions, Sports & Leisure International LLC of Frisco, Texas, that runs through April.
War Memorial Stadium opened in 1948 and has played host to major college football, concerts and other events for more than 60 years, according to its website.
There has been no determination regarding the future of Razorback football in Little Rock beyond the current contract with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, which runs through 2018, said Kevin Trainor, a spokesman for the UA athletic department.
Last month, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced plans to study the cost of and support for reviving its football program.
In May, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council awarded a $1.1 million conservation and historic preservation grant to the War Memorial Stadium Commission to upgrade its scoreboard and two video boards.
Webb said the scoreboard upgrade is being tested this week to make sure everything is functional, and training for the scoreboard operation will be conducted over the next few weeks.
He said the attendance at Saturday night’s Guns N’ Roses concert totaled 23,973, and “all the financials for the concert won’t be available for several days as we work through the details with the promoter, Live Nation.
“When we get them, we will be happy to share them,” he said, adding he was pleased with the turnout. He said he would like to hold two or three big concerts at the stadium a year.