Center needs conventions,board told

Published 11:28 am Thursday, January 26, 2012

Conventions accounted for only 11 percent of the Vicksburg Convention Center’s activities in the 2011 fiscal year but 47 percent of the $521,337 in revenue for year, members of the convention center’s advisory board were told Wednesday.

“When you look at those (2011) numbers, it’s really an eye-opener,” said sales and marketing manager Erin Powell, who presented the figures. “It shows us what we should be doing. We should be going out looking for conventions.”

Only four of the board’s 10 voting members, fewer than the required six for a quorum, attended the meeting, so the board could take no action.

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Powell’s comments came during a discussion of the center’s first quarter of fiscal 2012, which ran from October to December.

She said the convention center hosted 25 conventions in fiscal 2011, adding the center’s average revenue from conventions is about $6,500.

“Our net revenue ranges from $800 to $26,000, depending on the convention,” she said.

Powell said meetings and conferences were the largest portion of the center’s events, accounting for 42 percent of the events at the center in 2011, but generated only 8 percent of the revenue. Banquets accounted for 21 percent of the center’s business and 18 percent of the revenue. Theatrical and Broadway productions accounted for 10 percent of the events and 11 percent of the revenue.

In a related matter, convention center business manager Donna Gray said revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2012 was $117,750, which was about 98 percent of the $119,750 budgeted for the period. She said catering revenue was $35,923, which was 43 percent more than projected for the quarter.

The center’s total expenses for the first three months of fiscal 2012 were $259,728, about 11 percent less than the projected $292,402. Revenue from the 2 percent lodging tax collected the city on occupied beds in the first quarter totaled $117,831, or 10 percent higher than the projected $107,258.

Gray said Vicksburg City Auditorium revenue for the first three months was $29,196, or 4 percent under the projected $30,393.

Part of the reason for the shortfall, she said, was the cancellation of one large event and poor attendance at another. She added the auditorium’s total expenses were $79,912, or 3 percent higher than the $74,513 projected for the quarter.

In other action, the board:

• Heard from administration and special events coordinator Sue Bagby that the center will hold a Black History Symposium and Cultural Expo Feb. 17 and 18, starting with workshops for fourth-grade students from the Vicksburg Warren School District

On Feb. 18, she said, Shape Up Vicksburg will conduct a walk to the U.S. Colored Troops monument in the Vicksburg Military Park on Feb. 18, and there will be an international tasting fiesta at the convention center.

• Powell said ticket sales for TNA Wrestling were less than expected, but said the drop in sales was partially because of competition from college football. She said ticket sales for comedian Ron White have been better than expected.

The four board members who attended Wednesday’s meeting were Cliff Whitney III, Gwen Edris, Brenda Love and Benny Terrell.

Board members Bobby Bailiss and Eddie Monsour said they forgot about the meeting.

“I’m embarrassed,” Bailiss said.

Board members Alice Hebler and Skipper Guizerix were out of town and unable to attend. Attempts to contact board members Tom Pharr and Derek Adams were unsuccessful.

Troy Thorn, who was attending his first meeting as executive director, told the group he is glad to be at the center.