Convention center numbers drop|Operating deficit falls with attendance, income

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008

Income and attendance at the Vicksburg Convention Center were down in the just-ended fiscal year, but so was the operating deficit.

An unanticipated jump in the lodging tax allowed the 12-year-old center to reduce its deficit by 30.5 percent, said Larry Gawronski, executive director of the firm that operates the Vicksburg Convention Center and Auditorium.

‘We don’t live and die by concerts, and we see that the concert market is not viable at this point. So we are going back to our bread and butter, which are conventions.’

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Larry Gawronski

Center director

During a quarterly meeting Thursday, Gawronski shared the numbers with the facilities’ board, saying the convention center had a net operating loss of $354,807 at fiscal year end 2007, and reduced it to $246,639 last fiscal year. Income was down by $70,000 in 2008, $56,000 of which was in ticket sales — which led to total attendance being off by about 18 percent.

“That means fewer people came through the turnstiles for ticketed events,” said Gawronski, noting attendance figures do not account for people who attend non-ticketed events, conferences and meetings.

Gawronski said the center will continue to focus on booking conferences, meetings and family entertainment as opposed to concerts because they create more economic impact to the city.

“We don’t live and die by concerts, and we see that the concert market is not viable at this point. So we are going back to our bread and butter, which are conventions,” he said. “That’s the kind of business that the community sees a real return on its investment.”

The most high-profile concert at the convention center last fiscal year, which ended with September, was the July B.B. King show, which failed to sell out, resulting in a loss of about $20,000 for the promoter, said Gawronski. The convention center did not lose any money on the concert. The convention center’s largest event each year is the Miss Mississippi Pageant, in addition to hosting everything from bridal shows and class reunions to trade conferences and meetings.

The Vicksburg Auditorium saw income rise in fiscal year 2008 by $17,000 without a rise in rental rates, however, the expenses were $26,000 over budget due to building repairs and equipment rentals and maintenance.

Along with the 2 percent lodging tax the convention center and auditorium receives, it is also subsidized by the City of Vicksburg. Gawronski said his staff had set an ambitious goal at the start of last fiscal year to reduce the convention center’s net operating deficit by 50 percent through the end of fiscal year 2010. High occupancy and average daily rates in Vicksburg last fiscal year resulted in the facility receiving $78,000 more from the lodging tax than was budgeted for — which largely aided in reducing the net operating losses by roughly $98,000.


Contact Steve Sanoski at