Providence, RI - House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan recently submitted a letter to Bernard Buonnano, Jr, Chairman of the RI Convention Center Authority (RICCA), requesting information about Authority’s efforts to increase value to the people of Rhode Island.
“A recent GoLocalProv story highlighted, once again, the problem with our current management of the facilities. Except for a handful of events this summer, all three buildings will be empty. Despite that, the overhead, salaries and other expenses will continue to be paid,” explained Representative Morgan.
“Four years ago, the Republican Policy Group studied the RICCA. At that time, their marketing plan was superficial, at best. The staffing levels, salaries and benefits were unnecessarily high, and they were not making enough money to cover operating costs, let alone the debt service of bonds issued 30 years ago, for what was promoted at the time as a self-sustaining venue.
“Since that study four years ago, which highlighted the deficiencies and recommended solutions to maximize use of the facilities, the Center has received an additional $135.7 million from taxpayers. It appears that, except for a few minor changes when the spotlight was shining on them, management has done little to restructure their operations. Four years ago, RICCA was on track to spend $750 million before the bonds were retired. RICCA ended fiscal year 2017 with a net deficit position of ($54.7) million and $184.6 million in bonds payable. Nothing seems to have changed that expensive reality,” she continued.
“We have beautiful facilities that should be competing with regional convention centers for business, like those in Boston and Hartford. The others are busy, but our lights are dark. I want to understand what our Board and managers have done to correct the situation. They should have a robust, professional marketing plan and be engaged in actions that remove barriers to shows and events, as well as, in capturing more business. It is unacceptable that for the entire summer, minimal events are scheduled. Three months with barely any events, but plenty of costs.
“Management of the Dunk has struggled to maintain safe conditions during basketball games. This has put players at risk and has caused a black eye, not only for the facility, but also for our state. These glaring failures could have a deleterious impact on future bookings. What actions did the Board undertake in light of poor staff performance?
“I am requesting a complete report from the Convention Center Board, detailing changes they have made in the four years since our study. I have also asked for the current marketing plan. I want to know how, or if, they are using an improved marketing plan. What actions have they taken to reduce costs, reform detrimental regulations and increase bookings?
“Four years ago, the Republican Policy Group sounded the alarm on an underused and costly complex. From the level of taxpayer support and the insignificant summer bookings, it appears nothing has changed. When is the Board going to get serious about maximizing the value of the Convention Center Authority? I am awaiting their reply,” she concluded.
Ian O'Connor, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903