CEDAR RAPIDS — Visit Dothan, the convention and visitors bureau for the Alabama city, has hired Aaron McCreight, the embattled former president of the now defunct GO Cedar Rapids, to lead the organization.
Visit Dothan Board Chairman Bill Durden suggested McCreight was made the scapegoat in Cedar Rapids for an Aug. 3-5, 2018, festival called “newbo evolve,” which charged $400 for three-day passes and lost $2.3 million, according to a report by WTVY-TV, a CBS affiliate in Dothan. Dothan is a community of about 65,000 people in southeast of Alabama not far from the Georgia and Florida border.
McCreight, who otherwise had been praised for his work attracting visitors to Cedar Rapids over his three years at the helm, was fired days after the festival.
“The city, GO Cedar Rapids and downtown were all on board (with the festival),” Durden said, according to the station’s report. “It was not just one, two or three people, it was a multitude of people and organizations but a few people’s heads had to roll and we feel like their loss is Dothan’s gain.”
Durden and McCreight did not return numerous messages seeking comment.
Cedar Rapids leaders and GO Cedar Rapids board directors had urged McCreight to create a signature festival to put Cedar Rapids on the map, and approved losing up to $660,000 to do so. But when the festival headlined by Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson flopped, they laid the blame squarely at the feet of McCreight and Scott Tallman, the community events director, who was also fired.
They said McCreight and Tallman misled them about ticket sales and sponsorships and made unapproved purchases. The festival generated just $1.5 million out of a $3.8 million budget, seeing a fraction of the expected ticket sales.
GO Cedar Rapids, which had an annual budget of $2 million, could not survive the debacle and folded while still owing $800,000 to vendors and $1.5 million to a bank loan.
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Dothan leaders contacted McCreight not long after he lost his job last August through an industry consultant, Durden said. They liked McCreight’s lengthy tourism background and experience with sports.
Before coming to Cedar Rapids in 2015, McCreight led the Casper, Wy., Convention and Visitors Bureau and owned a minor league baseball team.
McCreight, who has been largely silent, denied misleading the board and said it was a matter of not selling enough tickets, according to WTVY.
“We took a calculated risk that didn’t work. At the end of the day it was up to me to answer for that and I did. It’s not the first time an event failed and it won’t be the last time,” McCreight told the station.
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