Tag Archives: San Diego

ICCC Speech Serves as Wakeup Call to Building Managers

27 Oct

Panelist Rod Cameron (center) from Criterion Communications spoke on the closing panel of ICCC. He’s seen here with panel sponsors Steve Peters and Tammy Koolbeck from VenuWorks.

REPORTING FROM SAN DIEGO — Has the convention center industry spent too much time marketing itself as a destination business, and not enough time promoting economic development?

Rod Cameron, president of Criterion Communications, said it was this messaging that brought on the precipitous cancellations of meetings during the economic crisis that peaked in fall of 2008 and can still be felt today.

Cameron’s comments were delivered during the final session of IAAM’s International Convention Center Conference in San Diego, and Cameron told many of the center managers in attendance that unless they began to promote themselves as economic engines, they would continue to suffer under the bully pulpit of politicians and meetings industry opponents.

“As venues and an industry, it doesn’t help to be referred to as a waste of time and a waste of resources,” he said.

Following the financial crisis, many saw meetings as an excuse for “going off and having a good time and later justifying it that you were trying to do something useful,” he said.

Suspicion first popped up with pharmaceutical conferences, which began to scale back meeting and recreational spending amongst concerns that money set aside for research and scientific pursuit was being used for golf and grand parties. It didn’t help when firm AIG was revealed to have planned lavish retreats for executives after accepting billions of dollars from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a fund that uses federal taxpayer dollars.

“If we’re perfectly honest, we have to admit that as an industry, we contributed to the whole mess as a collective,” Cameron said. “We did that by over-indulging in the use of leisure messages and leisure imagery in terms of how we market convention destinations.”

Making it worse, Cameron argued that the meetings industry has been overly obsessive with sustainability initiatives, pushing environmental efforts to the exclusion of economic efforts.

“In the midst of all of this, surveys we’ve done found that 75-80 percent of centers had developed major sustainability programs, but not more than 30 percent could identify those as prominent marketing features. It had simply became an expectation that they would be needed to function,” he said.

In many cases, clients weren’t aware of the sustainability effort, he said, and “certainly most weren’t willing to fight for it. Hardly anyone would actually pay more money for it.”

Couple that with advances in digital technology that have made it easier to conduct remote meetings, and the meeting industry increasingly finds itself on the defensive.

“We’re going to need a better and broader value statement about what meetings are all about and what convention centers deliver to the community. When our financial story starts to soften, we need something to pump it up with,” he said.

First and foremost, economic development should be measured locally, since local and regional governments are often the driving financial forces for most convention centers. Cameron said the industry should also revisit its performance measures.

“Why is the top measurement hotel room nights? People don’t attend meetings so that they can stay in hotel rooms? They have meetings to share knowledge,” he said.

Cameron said that buildings that can make the argument that their centers actually accomplish all of their economic policy objectives in the local community have a much better chance of getting the attention of stakeholders.

“We are systematically underestimated because we systematically underestimate and undervalue ourselves,” he said, later adding, “We’ve got a key role to play in recovery, and that’s an important story to tell. If we can make our respective governments understand this, they’re going to take us a lot more seriously because that is their number one concern.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this story: Rod Cameron, (604) 836-2123

Naming Rights Report: Valley View Casino Center, San Diego

16 Oct

Date Announced: Oct. 12


Buyers: San Pasqual Development Group, Inc.

Terms: 5 years, with two one-year options, financial terms not released

City of San Diego/AEG/Kobey Swap Meet

Comments: As of Nov. 1, the San Diego Sports Arena has a new name — Valley View Casino Center — to go with its $3 million renovation. The buyer is the San Pasqual Development Group, Inc., the gaming corporation of the San Pasqual tribe which owns and operates the casino and hotel complex in North San Diego County.

“They saw branding opportunities and an ability to get a bunch of customers to special events en masse,” said Ernie Hahn, general manager there for AEG. “They saw an iconic building in downtown San Diego — everybody knows where it is — and that they could help rebrand $3 million in improvements and make both brands better.”

Valley View Casino & Hotel’s marketing efforts have been consistently strong throughout San Diego and of late throughout the entire Southern California region. They are opening a new hotel addition on Nov. 19. The property will now market the Valley View Casino Center alongside its casino and hotel brand.

The venue’s renovation included the addition of a 6,500-sq.-ft. VIP hospitality space, Club 3500, new lower level seats, LCD televisions throughout, an upgraded concourse and arena entrances.

Hahn said the deal includes signage, which will be switched out over the next four to six weeks. The casino will also receive a number of passes to Club 3500.

“An important part of the contract was that in the first year, we will redo the parking lot,” Hahn said. “It is a big endeavor, but at the same time, it will be better for people who come here, and for the Kobey Swap Meet. You can only patch and stripe so many times, when people arrive here, it is the one thing they look at that needs additional help.” — Liz Boardman

Contact: Ernie Hahn, (619) 225-9813


Record Crowds ‘Taste the Fun’ at the San Diego County Fair

10 Jul

Tim Fennell at the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, Calif.

REPORTING FROM DEL MAR, CALIF. – It was a case of a record year following a record year at the San Diego County Fair here June 11-July 5, despite high unemployment and a economy that is upside down. “People are hurting,” said Tim Fennel, fair CEO and general manager. His goal, accomplished, was to make lemonade out of lemons.

The 2010 fair drew 1,338,500, up from 1,274,384 last year. Promotions included Furlough Fridays, offering civil servants who are being forced to take furloughs by the state and cities in the state, two free admissions; and Unemployment Day, offering free admission to those with an unemployment check stub.

From June 1-July 5, the fair Web site, www.sdfair.com, received 808,285 visits, up about 20 percent over same period in 2009.
The fair’s mobile-phone Web site, m.sdfair.com, received 39,710 visits, up 172 percent, and
Facebook has 6,114 friends;
Twitter, 1,443 followers, and
YouTube, 12,976 views of Fair videos, reported Linda Zweig, fair information and media relations.

The theme, Taste the Fun, was enhanced with a $2 “Tuesday Taste of the Fair” promotion during which fairgoers could enjoy small portions of a variety fair food for just $2 at participating stands. Normal admission price was $13 for adults, $7 for seniors and kids.

The theme and the discounts resulted in a record food and drink gross (numbers are still preliminary) of $12,407,000, up from $11,178,000 last year, Fennell said. Premier Food Services, year-round concessionaire at the venue, grossed another $2,007,000, up from $1,837,000, he added, also unaudited numbers as are all dollar figures he quoted.

There were 110 food booths booked into the fair. Sales included 12,000 Fried Klondike Bars,
10,000 Fried Twinkies,
5,000 Fried Avocados,
8,000 Fried S’mores, and
6,600 Fried Butters.
The biggest day for food sales was Saturday, July 3, with $852,351 in gross sales, Zweig said.

The independent midway suffered the first week, tracking below 2009, but that was attributed to the fact schools let out later than anticipated. Fennell said the final numbers were up slightly, with rides grossing about approximately $6,549,000, compared to $6,291,000 last year. Games are booked on flat fee basis and that number was static, $590,000 compared to $580,000, he said.

Discounts on the gate also included the second annual “22 days for $22” promotion, dubbed the “Best Pass Ever” and sold only in advance. It’s basically a season pass for fairgoers, Fennell said.

The net result of the ubiquitous discounts was increased revenues, he said. Gate income this year was $5,407,000, up from $5,104,000 last year. Fennell added that the average per cap is in the $30 range.

Sponsorships were also up considerably, bringing in $1,277,000 in cash and kind, up from $890,000 last year. Mark  Entner’s new firm, Absolute Event Solutions, debuted at the fair this year with showbags sponsored by 7-Eleven. The chain provided 125,000 reusable show bags, valued at $85,000-$100,000, which were advertised in advance and given away on specific days at the fair, Entner explained. With 200 stores in the San Diego area, 7-Eleven also provided a marketing outlet for the fair where brochures and posters were prevalent leading up to the event.AES then sold local businesses and some fair vendors into a coupon book, which was in the bag.

Parking income was also up slightly, Fennell continued, to $3,022,000 from $2,903,000 last year. On the biggest day, they leased additional parking to accommodate the crowds. Parking was $10 general, $15 preferred.

The key to success this year was in responding to the challenges, Fennell repeated. Last year, he recalled, Michael Jackson passed away during the fair and they brought entertainment in that was a tribute to Jackson and set up a mini-wall exhibit where patrons could write notes and testimonials. The one-year anniversary of Jackson’s death was Friday, June 25, and to commemorate that, the fair staged “flash mobs.” It was basically a scheduled impromptu event, where suddenly trained dancers and singers separate from the crowd and perform to Jackson tunes.

The San Diego County Fair produced eight stages of entertainment, the vast majority of it free, Fennell said. New to the fair, in honor of the theme, were celebrity chefs. Guy Fieri, a Food Network Chef, played the grandstand, drawing 5,000 people, he added. Paid shows included Sammy Hagar & The Wabos, One Republic and Jeff Dunham. Dinner packages were offered for several shows. For $100-$166, buyers received floor level seats, dinner at the Turf Club, fair admission and preferred parking.

“There’s no better value, I think, than this fair,” Fennell said. His annual operating budget is $58 million, of which $22 million is fairtime. Last year, the fair netted over $3.5 million after depreciation, and Fennell predicted that would grow to close to $4 million this year.

Dates for 2011 are tentatively set for June 10-July 4. – Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Tim Fennell, (858) 792-4200; Linda Zweig, (858) 792-4262; Mark Entner, (949) 650-8385