Global Spectrum Contract with Miami Beach Formally Approved

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Miami Beach, FL – Global Spectrum received formal approval to take over the management of the Miami Beach Convention Center under a controversial partnership with European organizers Messe Schweiz.

The Miami Beach City Commission voted 6-1 on September 10 to turn over management of the center to Global Spectrum and award a three-year contract.  SMG managed the facility for 15 years. 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 considered a flagship citywide event for Miami Beach.

For Global Spectrum, the vote was a potential landmark in the company’s history. “This is a rare opportunity,” said Frank Russo, senior vice president business development & client relations. “We know we can run a convention center of this size.”

The Miami Beach Convention Center has 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.

Global Spectrum planned to commit around $3 million over three years to improvements to the convention center and had already assembled a transition team to facilitate the October 1 change of management. The company expected to present a list of three candidates for the job of building manager to the city commission soon.

Russo told Trade Show Executive that while some staff reductions were anticipated, the sales force would be beefed up and was already building relationships with the trade shows and consumer events that are held regularly at the center. “We have reached out to several of them and said it would be a smooth and seamless transition,” he said.

Global Spectrum insisted that Messe Schweiz would be a virtual silent partner in the management of the convention center. Critics of the partnership have publicly 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.

Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who cast the only vote against the contract, was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying the arrangement “invited corruption.”

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.”

Global Spectrum also announced it had formed a joint venture with NEC Group 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, NIA Arena and LG Arena, all in Birmingham, England.

Reach Frank Russo at (215) 389-9587 at frusso@global-spectrum.com; Douglas Tober, general manager of the Miami Beach Convention Center, at (305) 673-7312 or dtober@smgmb.com