The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a $39,900 agreement with Hotel & Leisure Advisors, LLC, a Cleveland consulting firm, to conduct a “highest and best use study” for the 40-year-old facility.

The property is owned and maintained by the Decatur Civic Center Authority, a governmental entity created by state statute. But the city signed a 99-year lease agreement in 1980, the year the facility opened.

The city’s annual rent payments subsidize the facility’s operating losses, which have ranged between $400,000 and $500,000 in recent years.

“The facility is underutilized,” said city manager Scot Wrighton. “It was underutilized before the pandemic and the pandemic made it worse. And so this is just an attempt to find out if there are other uses that could drive up activity at the civic center in a way that can reduce the the significant subsidy that the city’s general fund pays for this, and makes better use of it in ways that were intended, even when it was developed 40 years ago.”