Gawronski in running for Iowa post

Published 12:14 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

Larry Gawronski, vice president and executive director of VenuWorks, the company that manages the city-owned Vicksburg Convention Center and Auditorium, is a candidate for a similar position in Ottumwa, Iowa.

“It would be quite an opportunity for me to take on a center twice as large as what we deal with in Vicksburg,” Gawronski said Saturday night, after the Ottumwa Courier, the Iowa city’s daily newspaper, reported Saturday that the city council “will vote Tuesday” to appoint him as executive director of Bridge View Center.

Bridge View is a 92,000-square-foot events center on the banks of the Des Moines River. It has a 655-seat theater, multiple meeting rooms and a multi-purpose exposition hall for conventions, conferences and trade shows.

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Gawronski said he did not seek out the position, but that Steve Peters, chief executive officer of VenuWorks, asked him if he would be a candidate.

VenuWorks is expected to take over management of Bridge View next week, Gawronski said.

“Diane (his wife) and I have been to Ottumwa, met officials and I am most impressed with what we saw,” he said. The center is about five years old, he said. The Vicksburg Convention Center is 14 years old, and the Vicksburg Auditorium is 60 years old.

Diane Gawronski is the former director of marketing and public relations at River Region Medical Center.

In the mid-1990s, Larry Gawronski helped oversee the construction of the $13 million convention center. He left two months after its 1997 grand opening to run a larger center in Nebraska, returning as executive director in 2001 when Compass Facility Management, an Ames, Iowa-based firm, was hired to run the convention center and auditorium.

Compass changed its name to VenuWorks in 2007 and continued handling administrative duties, sales, marketing, operations, special events, promotions and image-building for the two facilities.

Last week in Vicksburg, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a new five-year contract with VenuWorks.

The company’s contract expired in August, but was extended by mutual agreement while city and company officials worked out a new plan. The new contract goes into effect Nov. 1 and can be canceled by the city at any time with six months’ notice.

Vicksburg’s two facilities are operated with a combination of revenue from a 2 percent bed tax, a city supplement and revenue from rentals.

Gawronski told the convention center’s Advisory Board Wednesday morning that the center finished the fiscal year with a $129,900 operating deficit, which was 48 percent lower than the projected $252,055. He said the deficit was the lowest in the convention center’s history. The combined operating deficit for the convention center and auditorium, he said, was $294,416, about 53 percent less than the projected $451,274.