Federal Way awards Spectra contract to operate PAEC

Spectra, a venue management company, will take over operation of the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center beginning Aug. 1.

The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to award a five-year contract to Spectra, whose parent company is Comcast, with an option to extend the contract another five years.

The city will pay Spectra $6,250 per month (or $75,000 a year) through December 2019. The fee will be reduced to $5,000 a month (or $60,000 a year) beginning in January 2020. The contract also offers Spectra an incentive fee based on operating income.

Mayor Jim Ferrell said he is excited for the partnership with Spectra.

“We have the utmost confidence that this partnership between Spectra and the city of Federal Way will elevate the PAEC to the next level, bringing in high-quality performances and shows while simultaneously continuing to make the facility accessible to local arts groups, service clubs and nonprofits,” Ferrell said in a media release.

During the meeting, Spectra presented the council with information about the company, its clients and future plans for PAEC usage.

“We act as an agent on behalf of the city of Federal Way, so we are putting the city of Federal Way’s best interests always first,” a representative from Spectra told the council.

The PAEC was previously run by the city, with food management provided by Savor, according to the media release. In April, the city announced the departure of the PAEC’s Executive Director, Theresa Yvonne, who started working for the city in 2015 and helped open the facility last summer.

Deputy Public Works Director EJ Walsh has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the facility since Yvonne’s departure.

Sean Beard, vice president of SMG which runs Savor, said he was upset that the city gave the contract to Spectra, especially after SMG put $200,000 toward capital investment into the PAEC. Spectra will invest $100,000 as part of the contract, which will help cover transition costs and create an incentive fund to attract performers and events to the PAEC.

Federal Way city spokesman Tyler Hemstreet said the city simply felt the need to start anew with Spectra rather than continuing with Savor, but did not provide further comment.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council member Martin Moore agreed with Ferrell’s decision to offer Spectra a management contract for the PAEC.

“Mayor, you made a difficult decision, but you made the right decision, and speaking for myself, it needed to happen,” Moore said. “It flat-out needed to happen.”

Autumn Gressett, who oversees food and beverage services for the PAEC through Savor, said during the public comment portion of the meeting she was upset Savor’s contract was coming to an end, but she was honored to have the opportunity help open the facility.

Gressett said details around the transition are uncertain.

“Obviously there are still a lot of questions,” she said. “But as of right now it’s just determining what that transition looks like.”

During the council meeting, a representative for Spectra said when it comes to the current PAEC staff, Spectra would give every employee a chance to join its team to avoid a significant turnover.

Savor’s contract with the city was valid through May 2022, but the contract could be terminated at any time by the city without notice.

More details on the transition to Spectra should come in the following weeks.

The 716-seat Performing Arts and Event Center officially opened Aug. 19. Located at 31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way, the facility cost $32.7 million and took nearly two years to build. The PAEC is considered by multiple city leaders to be a key piece in the development of Federal Way’s downtown core.