Goals set, met since Compass took over, convention center board says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

[10/24/02]In the first fiscal year since Compass Facility Management took over operation of the Vicksburg Convention Center, four major goals were set and met, the chairman of the VCC advisory board said.

Bobby Bailess, board chairman, delivered the news during Wednesday’s quarterly meeting.

The City of Vicksburg opened the $13 million center in 1997 under city control. After four years of no profit and few bookings, management of the center was hired out to Compass, which is based in Ames, Iowa. In October 2001, the city also turned over management of the Municipal Auditorium to the company.

The goals were:

200 event usage days

50,000 patrons through the doors

Gross sales of $200,000 in catering and $100,000 in concessions

Confirm 10 multiday conventions, conferences and consumer/trade events.

All of the goals, except for concessions, have been met, Bailess said.

“This year’s actual (usage days) number is 227, a 23 percent increase over the previous high and a 30 percent increase over last year,” he said.

The number of patrons who actually attended events at the center was 50,635, or 49 percent more than the previous year.

Although the goal for catering was exceeded, $230,000 versus a goal of $200,000, the sales of concessions and liquor was $16,500. In spite of that, Riverside Food Service, the locally owned company with the contract for food and beverage service, paid the city nearly $78,000. That figure compares with $45,000, the best fiscal year when the city operated its own food and beverage service.

Bailess also said 15 multiday events were booked during the fiscal year that just ended.

“Hotel room nights … is a clear benchmark for measuring the type of business the convention center is attracting,” the chairman said, adding in the past year, the center bookings generated 11,000 during the past fiscal year. “Prior to Compass assuming management, this area had not been tracked. We … now have a handle on this so we can better measure the future value of convention business.”

Bailess also commented in his report on the change in the food and beverage service on Nov. 1 last year.

“Nearly one year later, the convention center is showing the best net figures for food and beverage in the five-year history of the facility and we continue to receive compliments from our clients on how great the food tastes and how quick and friendly the service is,” he said.

Another of the successes posted by the facility in the 18 months since Compass took over was attracting the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame banquet to the center in April. This was the first time the banquet had ever been held anywhere but Jackson.

“They are already planning their second consecutive banquet and induction ceremony this April 2003, at the Vicksburg Convention Center,” Bailess said.

In comment to the board, Steve Peters, the president and chief executive officer for Compass, said the company will begin Compass Presents in 2003.

“It will be exclusively to bring mainly new entertainment events to our facilities,” he said, adding that the goal is four events per year.

Peters also said his company is developing a greater ability to work with cities on developing the infrastructure to increase business at the facilities the company manages. Compass is working with Youngstown, Ohio, on a project to build a hotel adjacent to its convention center.

Responding to a question from board member Cliff Whitney III about how Compass might be involved in the dealings the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Vicksburg have had with Innisfree Hotels, a business development company from Gulf Breeze, Fla., and Strategic Advisory Group, a consulting group from Duluth, Ga., Larry Gawronski, executive director of the center, said convention center officials were at the meeting but there is not much they can say now.