Kent Events Center directors ready to roll

With the Kent Events Center slated to open in about five months, Josh Holmes and Beth Sylves have taken on the challenge to help make the new arena a hit.

Beth Sylves

Beth Sylves

New staffers to oversee marketing, operations

With the Kent Events Center slated to open in about five months, Josh Holmes and Beth Sylves have taken on the challenge to help make the new arena a hit.

SMG, the Philadelphia-based company hired by the city of Kent to operate the $84.5 million events center, recently hired Holmes as director of operations and Sylves as director of marketing.

“It’s exciting to have the chance to open a building and create energy from scratch,” said Sylves in an interview Thursday at SMG’s temporary office at the city’s Kent Commons recreational facility across West James Street from the arena. “It’s an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the identity and personality of a building that will be here for at least 30 years.”

The 6,025-seat arena is under construction at West James Street and Fifth Avenue North. The facility is scheduled to open on Jan. 2, 2009.

The Seattle Thunderbirds minor league hockey team will be the anchor tenant of the facility. The team plans to move next January to Kent from its current home at KeyArena in Seattle. The city of Kent has a 30-year lease with the Thunderbirds.

Sylves will work to promote the 40 Thunderbirds games per year, concerts, trade shows and other events that will be lined up for the 154,400-square foot facility.

Sylves, 40, started work in Kent two weeks ago after 1 1/2 years as the director of marketing for the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. She worked the previous five years as the marketing manager for the Tacoma Dome.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work in Kent at a beautiful building that people will rave about,” said Sylves, who lives in Newcastle. “And it’s a great opportunity to work for SMG.”

Holmes will oversee the upkeep and operations of the arena. He will work closely with the Thunderbirds as well as with the concerts and shows that come to town.

“My job is to make sure the events go off without a hitch,” Holmes said. “We’ll work to keep a beautiful building standing and in good shape.”

Holmes started work on July 26 in the temporary office at Kent Commons. SMG will move into an office at the events center when the facility opens.

SMG plans to offer a job fair, possibly as soon as next month, to hire as many as 150 part-time employees to work as ushers, ticket takers, vendors and other jobs.

“We are going to be very community-oriented,” Holmes said. “We’ll have tons of part-time positions open. We want people to feel pride in the place.”

Holmes, 35, worked as director of events services for about five years at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., before taking the Kent job.

“It’s a very rewarding experience, as difficult as it may be,” Holmes said of the opportunity to open a new arena.

Along with the part-time workers, SMG also will hire up to 20 full-time employees in finance, marketing, operations and food and beverage.

SMG is the largest manager of arenas and convention centers in the nation. The company manages 76 arenas. The city has a three-year contract with SMG to run the events center.

Holmes and Sylves are in contact with several other SMG operation and marketing directors as a resource to help open the events center.

Tim Higgins, SMG’s general manager of the events center, expects Holmes and Sylves to get a lot done in a short time.

“With our opening less than six months away, I found great people whose experience will allow them to hit the ground running,” Higgins said in a SMG media release.

When dates and contracts for shows and concerts are finalized, SMG will announce the events. Besides Thunderbirds games and the Kent School District’s plan to book June 13, 2009, for graduation ceremonies for its four high schools, no exact dates of events have been released.

“There is a tremendous amount of interest,” Sylves said. “It’s a great market and a culturally diverse market. Local, regional and industry-wide promoters are interested.”

City officials and SMG plan to have an open house for the public, at a date to be determined, to show off the new arena.

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