Miami Beach, FL – The Miami Beach City Commission gave its preliminary approval to a move to turn over management of the Miami Beach Convention Center to a partnership between Global Spectrum and European organizer and venue operator Messe Schweiz.
The 5-2 vote came after Global Spectrum executives pitched their case directly to the commission in order to counter the recommendation from city staff and a selection committee to extend the contract with SMG, which has run the center for the past 18 years.
“The commission credited Global Spectrum for a very specific plan to reduce the operating subsidy,” said Frank Russo, senior vice president business development & client relations for Global Spectrum. “Our fee proposals were so close they were not a determining factor.”
The Deal is Not Yet Signed, Sealed, Delivered
The deal will not be officially sealed until the commission votes on the actual three-year management contract, and the city could still negotiate a new deal with SMG if the talks with Global Spectrum and Messe Schweiz fall apart. The timetable for putting the new pact together will be up to the city, Russo said.
The Miami Beach Convention Center is ranked 28th on the Trade Show Executive list of the World’s Top Convention Centers. It includes 502,848 square feet of prime exhibit space and 145,000 square feet of meeting space.
Once a new agreement is in place, the Miami Beach Convention Center will be the largest venue managed by Global Spectrum. Its current largest facility is the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, which offers 195,000 square feet of prime exhibit space and is ranked 79th on Trade Show Executive’s list of top convention centers.
Tom Mobley, senior vice president convention centers for Global Spectrum, said their overall pitch created a buzz about revitalizing the center’s image with the convention and trade show industry and with the public in the Miami area. “You could feel in the discussion that they were looking for some new excitement and some new vision,” Mobley told Trade Show Executive.
Gregg Caren, senior vice president strategic business development for SMG, said the incumbents were “surprised and disappointed” at the commission’s decision. Caren said SMG had been endorsed by the selection committee based on lengthy proposals and a specific scoring system. “Further, the city manager concurred with that recommendation after a detailed review,” he added. “Support for SMG’s continued tenure came from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, the overwhelming majority of show organizers in the building, and the hospitality community.”
The prospect of new management for the convention center also intrigued some leaders of the Miami Beach hotel industry. The hook was Messe Schweiz’s stated intention to actively recruit new shows with European attendee bases to locate in Miami Beach. Messe Schweiz runs 30 exhibitions, including Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the city’s largest events and a major draw for visitors.
The proposed management deal would have Global Spectrum running the building while Messe Schweiz would establish a sales office for the center in Europe. Some critics in the trade show industry, however, have expressed concern that Messe Schweiz would use its leverage to monopolize desirable dates and charge premium rates to show organizers.
Russo said the commission apparently did not buy into those concerns and, in fact, found the role of Messe Schweiz to be a positive. “They saw it not as a conflict, but rather an enhancement,” said Russo. “There was not even the potential for a conflict because of the contract that will be signed with us. We are the sole party to the contract and Messe Schwiez would essentially be an advisor to Global Spectrum.