Update: Former Arena Mgmt. Figures Plead Not Guilty

Update: Five individuals charged with 111 counts including wire fraud and money laundering related to their work at a city owned arena in Bloomington, Ill., pleaded not guilty in court Sept. 29.

John Y. Butler, Bart Rogers, Jay C. Laesch, Paul E. Grazar and Kelly W. Klein all posted bond and said they were not guilty of the charges related to mismanagement of what is now

“I think my client has a stellar reputation and just having these charges brought against him and having these city officials say the things that they are saying undermines that reputation significantly,” Butler’s lawyer, Steven Beckett, was quoted in the paper. “And when the case is over and he is found not guilty he will be going somewhere and saying: Where do I get my reputation back?”

Original story: An investigation into the management of what is now  in Bloomington, Ill., has led to the indictment of five individuals associated with Central Illinois Arena Management.

Grossinger Motors Arena
– Grossinger Motors Arena
Back when the Bloomington, Ill., venue was named U.S. Cellular Coliseum.

The CIAM management figures named were John Y. Butler and Bart Rogers, according to the Bloomington Pantagraph, and their employees Jay C. Laesch, Paul E. Grazar and Kelly W. Klein. They face a combined 111 indictments including counts of money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy.

When questions arose about financial records in 2016 Butler, president of CIAM, was reportedly resistant to providing records to bloggers and media organizations. He is now staring down 44 indictments for allegedly stealing $1.1 million in concession money through improper discounts and withholding of sales taxes, according to the Pantagraph.  

CIAM managed what was city-owned U.S. Cellular Coliseum until March 2016. At the time CIAM’s contract was expiring, Butler said in a statement: “After many meetings, it is clear that the City’s view and concept of its relationship with the management company significantly differs from ours. The City rightfully wants accountability, but controls and oversight that inject the City into the day-to-day operation of the Coliseum defeat the purpose of having a private management company. The management company essentially becomes a department of the City. I am not willing to continue on that basis.”

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner previously said questions came up during the transition to new management company VenuWorks, and the city opened an investigation. City Manager David Hales said internal audits and reviews raised “multiple areas of concern” and the police were subsequently involved, according to the paper.

Butler said upon finding out an investigation was being conducted: “The Coliseum staff was a professional staff and I am confident there has been no wrongdoing and at the most only differences (were) in interpretation of the management agreement.”

The indictments were unsealed Sept. 25 once all defendants had posted bail, according to the Pantagraph.

Grossinger Motors Arena has been going through a whirlwind of changes in the past 12 months as naming rights have changed, executive director Curtis Webb was fired for unauthorized use of a company card, and Lynn Cannon was brought in to right the ship.

The city reportedly recorded almost $500,000 in losses from the 7,000-capacity venue in 2015. Upcoming dates include Jim Gaffigan and “Paw Patrol Live!”. The venue’s last shows on record were Chris Stapleton and Brantley Gilbert in April. The arena has sold more than 1 million tickets since 2014, with 33 headline shows in 2017 and 38 in 2016, both upticks from the 29 in 2015.

Pollstar reached out to reps for Grossinger Motors Arena.