Miami Beach, FL – On October 1, Global Spectrum formally took over the management of the Miami Beach Convention Center under a controversial partnership with European organizer Messe Schweiz.
The Miami Beach City Commission had voted 6-1 on September 10 to end SMG’s 15-year tenure as managers of the center and award Global Spectrum a three-year management contract. The vote was followed by the announcement that Art Basel Miami Beach had committed to return to the center through 2011. The annual art festival is owned by Messe Schweiz and is a flagship citywide event for Miami Beach.
For Global Spectrum, the vote was a landmark in the company’s history. “This is a rare opportunity,” said Frank Russo, senior vice president business development and client relations. “We know we can run a convention center of this size.”
The Miami Beach Convention Center offers 502,848 square feet of prime exhibit space as well as 145,000 square feet of meeting space. Russo said Art Basel planned to increase its footprint from two exhibit halls to four.
Tom Mobley, Global’s senior vice president of convention centers, is serving as interim general manager. The company will present three candidates for the general manager position to the city commission in the near future.
Mobley said that a combination of increased revenue and cost controls would yield an added $3 million to the facility’s bottom line over the next three years.
Russo told Trade Show Executive that while some staff reductions were anticipated, the majority of the sales force and event management team has been retained including Kay Hollander, director of sales and marketing. The team is reaching out to the trade shows and consumer events held regularly at the center to assure them of a smooth and seamless transition, Russo said. IAEE, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, is holding its annual meeting at the center in December.
As it had during the entire bidding process for the contract, Global Spectrum insisted that Messe Schweiz would be a virtual silent partner in the management of the convention center. Critics of the partnership include SISO (the Society of Independent Show Organizers) which expressed concern that giving a show organizer a say in the management of a convention center would raise the possibility that other events could be denied favorable dates and rates.
But Russo reiterated that Global Spectrum would run the building while the Swiss company added its marketing muscle in Europe to attract new events to Miami Beach. “It is strictly Global Spectrum,” Russo said. “Messe Schweiz won’t be involved in the transition or in the day-to-day issues.”
Miami Beach may not be the last place where Global Spectrum locks horns with the much-larger SMG. The company issued a news release September 8 announcing it had formed a joint venture with NEC Group Birmingham called Global Spectrum Europe to compete with SMG Europe and AEG for management contracts for European sports stadiums and arenas, including the facilities planned for the 2012 Olympics in London.
The NEC Group operates the National Exhibition Centre, National Indoor Arena and LG Arena, all in Birmingham, England.