Los Angeles city officials want the convention center to move away from local trade shows and focus on larger conventions that draw out-of-state visitors, but whether privatization will be a part of that equation remains up in the air for now.
A proposal to overhaul operations at the convention center was presented Monday afternoon to the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommended hiring a private manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the business, though he noted that change alone would not improve the convention business in Los Angeles. Privatization would, however, save the City of L.A. as much as $37 million over a five-year period, according to Santana.
A representative for SEIU Local 721’s Professional Managers Association questioned why improvements couldn’t be made with the current structure that's in place.
“We don’t see any reason why the governance structure can’t be streamlined and policies and procedures maximized under the current management structure,” Charley Mims told the committee.
The discussion on whether to privatize the Convention Center comes as the city council is considering AEG’s plan to knock down the West Hall to make way for the Farmers Field stadium. The West Hall would be replaced, but it is unclear how that would impact bookings at the convention center in the interim.
“We are kind of right in the middle of a stream right now with moving forward on, at least taking steps toward, a stadium and convention center project,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance committee.
“With management and oversight, governance changes that we’re talking about today, a hotel strategic plan that we’re talking about today – they are all big pieces that are going to impact the success or lack thereof of the Convention Center.”
Santana's report also recommends:
- Shorten the booking window from 24 to 12 months
- Increase convention attendance by 50 percent by the year 2025
- Expand to 5,000 hotel rooms within a half-mile of the Convention Center by 2025
- Give the Board of Commissioners direct oversight over convention operations
Committee members moved the CAO’s report to city council, but asked that the governance and privatization parts be sent back to Budget and Finance Committee for further consideration.