Nurses, shows put Convention Center back in fast lane

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thanks to strong attendance at a student nurses’ convention, family shows and performances by Larry the Cable Guy and Jayme Johnson, second quarter revenues at the Vicksburg Convention Center and Auditorium rebounded after a slow start to the fiscal year, said Larry Gawronski.

“Last quarter we were sorely behind due to a very, very, very bad convention market in October, November and December,” Gawronski told members of the advisory board of the city-owned facilities. “As I promised, we had a better (second) quarter…and with a very strong third quarter coming up, we feel like we’re in good shape.”

Gawronski is executive director of VenuWorks, contract manager of the two buildings operated with a combination of revenue from a 2 percent bed tax, a city supplement and revenue from rentals. A total of 45 events were held at the convention center and auditorium in January, February and March, he said. Though that was fewer than the 54 events held during the first quarter of the fiscal year, revenues were much higher.

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The convention center posted income totaling about $135,000 during the second quarter — 26 percent higher than budget estimates — and held expenses even with the budget. It was a welcome shift from the first quarter, when revenues were 44 percent below budget, and it brought year to date revenues within 1 percent of expectations, said Gawronski.

Along with banquet and conference bookings, March business also included the annual Mississippi Organization for Associate Degree Nursing convention, which drew 2,000 attendees and 100 exhibitors to the convention center for three days. Rising country artist Jayme Johnson also packed nearly 1,000 fans into the auditorium during March. 

Auditorium revenues were 34 percent over budget in the second quarter, which raised year to date earnings to 20 percent over budget at the midway point — $53,327 total, compared to the $33,500 expected. 

“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money,” acknowledged Gawronski, “but those numbers at the auditorium have always been modest, and we’re jumping them exponentially.”

Four Curious George Live! shows over a two-day period in February sold a total of 1,721 tickets, while 1,800 tickets were sold for Larry the Cable Guy’s January show. While the shows were not sold out and did not make much money for the promoters, Gawronski said they boosted revenues at the convention center.

The better-than-expected revenue was much needed, considering the bed tax continues to bring in less than expected. The tax was lagging 10 percent behind budget projections at the end of the second quarter — with $175,199 collected compared to $220,000 budgeted.

Contact Steve Sanoski at