VCC’s ’14 ledger comes down to the wire

Published 11:04 am Thursday, September 25, 2014

Whether the Vicksburg Convention Center’s finances stay on the positive side of the ledger for fiscal 2014 is coming down to the month’s final days, its chief officer said Wednesday.

Tower Loan, a finance company with offices in six states, including one in Vicksburg, brought 145 people to its conference in the Mulberry Street facility, executive director Annette Kirklin told the Vicksburg Lions Club. The timing of the gathering could make receipts from the city’s 2 percent tax on hotel room rentals, which funds most of the center’s daily operations, crucial ahead of Tuesday, when the fiscal year ends, Kirklin said.

“Our fingers are crossed,” she said. “It’s something that’s never ever happened before.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

A final tally of VCC finances for the year is expected Oct. 22, at its advisory board’s next meeting.

Kirklin said a trend of smaller deficits since 2003, when VCC finished $662,000 in the red, was on pace to continue as of this week, though she didn’t hazard a guess for club members. The center had ended fiscal 2013 with a deficit of $83,084; the year before, the deficit was $28,448.

Lodging taxes brought in $555,119 in fiscal 2013, down from $600,930 in 2012, according to the VCC advisory board. The City of Vicksburg, which owns the building, pays for capital projects there, while Iowa-based VenuWorks manages the facility. A reworked contract with the company ended all operating subsidies from the city after this fiscal year.

Kirklin became executive director of the facility in November after having led the Southern Cultural Heritage Center for the previous six years. The first-year director on Wednesday touted her six-person staff’s energy in keeping the halls busy at the 17-year-old center — a crown jewel of the center’s late-winter bookings, the Mississippi Organization of Associate Degree Nursing Convention, returned in 2014 — and a recap of renovations in progress.

This summer, a new, $70,000 sound system was installed to replace the previous one that was in place since building was completed in 1997. A new roof and windows are next up, Kirklin said, dependent on city funding priorities. Estimates on a new roof have run about $350,000 or more. New lights and seating are also on the center’s wish list.

A hotel exclusive to convention center foot traffic — long a talking point and bullet point in studies concerning the center — remains elusive. However, Kirklin said, the privately-owned Portofino, formerly a casino hotel under three separate ownerships from 1993 to 2012 and now part of the Choice Hotels International chain of lodgings, is filling the role nicely despite minimal marketing.

“I saw several of them walk into the Portofino (Hotel),” Kirklin said of this week’s conference attendees. “That does my heart good.”

VCC officials expect events in 2014-15 to include the Mississippi Ag/Arkansas Ag Company, Mississippi Library Association and the Warren County Whitetails Unlimited banquet, among others, Kirklin said.

Kirklin said the Ritz on the River concert in July is scheduled for a second go-round next summer, on July 16, 2015. The event featured a Big Band-era tribute orchestra and dancing.

“I’m in the process now of finding a band for next year,” she said. “It was a way to open our doors and everyone in there was having a blast.”