By DANIEL TAUB
Concerned that the Los Angeles Convention Center is not making as much money as it could, city officials expect this month to look for a consultant to study a new management structure for the center including the possibility of hiring an outside operator.
A request for proposals to complete the study is expected to be sent out by the end of this month. It follows a study prepared last year by Coopers & Lybrand LLP that recommended surveying convention centers across the country to see which are most effective for attracting exhibits and producing increased revenues.
Councilman Richard Alatorre, who chairs the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, said the center has done a poor job of regaining big conventions that were lost before its 1989 expansion.
“You have to be more aggressive in seeking out other things,” Alatorre said. “There are different conventions of the fashion industry that they stole from us a long time ago because we weren’t big enough. I think we have to do a better job in going after business, and I think we have to get away from a turnstile operation and go after big conventions.”
Deputy Mayor Kelly Martin said the departure last July of longtime Convention Center General Manager Dick Walsh who was moonlighting as a consultant for officials in Hawaii building a convention facility there presented an opportunity for L.A. to take a look at the center’s management.
L.A.’s Convention Center has a complex governance structure in which two agencies the L.A. Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the center itself have authority to book shows.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau, a quasi-governmental agency that receives half its funding from the city of L.A., has the first right to book exhibitions.
Its primary responsibility is to schedule shows that will attract a large number of out-of-town visitors, and it gets first priority because those shows generate more tourism dollars in the form of hotel stays and restaurant receipts.
The center itself can then book shows for those days the Convention and Visitors Bureau has not booked. Its primary responsibility is to book consumer and trade shows that attract people from the region, like the annual ski and auto shows.
Meanwhile, Convention Center Interim General Manager George T. Rakis said that the center continues to draw more business. The center had close to $24 million in revenues in the 1996-97 fiscal year, up from $23.1 million the previous fiscal year. It is expected to have almost $25 million in revenues in 1997-98.