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San Diego
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Convention Center Board Could Get a Face-Lift

The board of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. is ironing out a proposal that would change its composition by adding more representatives from the hospitality industry.

“The point would be to have people on the board who work with visitors to our city and understand their demands and requirements,” said April Boling, the agency’s chairwoman.

“I’m a big believer in the importance of having industry-related experience on a board, said Boling, a certified public accountant in solo practice. “Otherwise your board is in a position to simply believe at face value everything told them by staff.

“I want to make it real clear that Carol Wallace (the president and chief executive officer of the Convention Center Corp.), is fabulous, and this is not a criticism of Carol and her team. But they’re not going to be there forever.”

The nine-member board of the city agency oversees the finances and operations of the 2.6 million-square-foot Convention Center in Downtown, which has a budget of $26.2 million for the fiscal year that ends in June. Currently, the board consists of only one hotel representative who has a vote , Robert Gleason, the chief financial officer and general counsel for the Evans Hotel Group.

Among the nine are two nonvoting members , Duke Sobek, the vice president and general manager of the Town and Country Resort Hotel in Mission Valley, and Reint Reinders, the president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While Boling said that details of the proposal, which would require a change in the board’s bylaws and approval from the San Diego City Council, have yet to be worked out, one thing is certain.

“We want to leave the total at nine and have all nine members be voting members,” she added.

Organized labor was also approached about having a seat on the board, Boling said.

Jerry Butkiewicz, the secretary-treasurer and chief executive officer for the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, said he and union members would be willing “to sit down and talk” about the offer. But, he added, he isn’t sure whether they’d be keen on the idea of having just one vote.

He said the relationship that unions have with the Convention Center is excellent, but he doubts that changing its board is a good idea.

“I definitely think the sentiment in our city is to want open government and community input, so we’d need to be cautious not to open ourselves to criticism,” Butkiewicz said.

Bill Evans, managing director of the Evans Hotel Group, which owns three local hotels, including the Lodge at Torrey Pines, however, said it “makes sense” to have more people on the board with expertise in the lodging and hospitality industries.

That way, the board would be less likely to “rubber stamp” votes on the advice of the staff, he said.

Evans, who is a member of the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association, is also a past member of the Convention Center Corp.’s board.

The Convention Center employs a staff of about 620 workers.

There’s no specific timeline for bringing the proposal before the City Council, yet Boling said it would be after the annual budget review is concluded in June.

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High-Flying Numbers:

According to the most recent air traffic report from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, about 1.5 million passengers flew in and out of Lindbergh Field during March, a 10.8 percent increase from the same month a year ago.

And in March 2004, the tally of about 1.3 million passengers was up 9.5 percent from the March 2003 figure.

The year-to-date total at the end of March 2005 stood at 3.9 million, a 7.1 percent increase from the same period in 2004.

The 3.7 million passengers who flew to and from the Downtown airport between January and the end of March 2004 represented a 7.4 percent hike from the like period in 2003.

Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via fax at (858) 571-3628 or e-mail her at Call her at (858) 277-6359.


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