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Fargodome no longer to use Ticketmaster

FARGO - Concertgoers will soon have to get used to a new name when buying tickets for events at the Fargodome.

The Fargodome Authority unanimously voted Tuesday to begin contract negotiations with New Era Tickets instead of renewing another five-year agreement with Ticketmaster, the dome's agent since the facility opened in 1992.

The Fargodome stands to increase its revenue and event attendees could see lower fees on some tickets under the new proposal.

Without raising current convenience fees on tickets, the Fargodome could increase revenue by $187,000 over the five-year deal by choosing New Era, according to financial models.

Ticketmaster's proposal would have raised some convenience fees to $8.50 from the current $6.25 charge, of which the Dome receives 35 percent.

The facility relies on commission from such charges as a source of revenue, but the New Era proposal allows the dome to set the fees, Fargodome General Manager Rob Sobolik said.

The Ticketmaster contract ends at the end of the year, and the dome's Ticketing Committee began reviewing proposals from New Era and Ticketmaster in August.

Ticketmaster currently provides $20,000 a year to the dome for marketing shows and the Ticketmaster brand name throughout the facility. Ticketmaster's new proposal didn't include that annual fee.

However, New Era offers a $25,000 annual "naming fee" that could be used in much the same way.

The only drawback found in switching to New Era was the brand recognition that comes with the Ticketmaster name, said Troy Goergen of the Ticketing Committee.

But New Era will try to counteract that with an additional $25,000 the first year of the contract to help with name marketing, Goergen said.

"There's going to be some branding work on our end," Sobolik said, who added the switch will also mean a transition in the software used.

New Era Tickets is owned by Comcast Spectator, the parent company of Global Spectrum, the dome's management firm and Sobolik's employer. Sobolik said he was not part of the Ticketing Committee to avoid a conflict of interests.

Dome Authority President David Suppes said the proposals this year were "a role reversal" from what he saw in 2005, when the same two companies were vying for the contract.

New Era lost out on the 2005 contract, when the company was in its infancy. Since then, it's grown and the market has moved toward more online sales, Sobolik said.

During the search, the Ticketing Committee first looked at the functionality of the two agents' systems and customer service.

But the financial analysis of what the proposals would mean for the Fargodome was what "brought everything together" in support for New Era, said Goergen.

The Ticketing Committee also called other New Era arenas to get feedback about the company.

"Of the calls that we made, the feedback was all positive," Goergen said.

A draft contract will go back to the Ticketing Committee and will need to be approved by the Dome Authority and ultimately the City Commission before the end of the year.