MODESTO — The city is shaking up the management of Modesto Centre Plaza in an effort to reduce its roughly $600,000 annual subsidy to the downtown convention center and improve operations.
The city has implemented part of the plan by eliminating the events and facility supervisors and a part-time administrative analyst. Those positions have been vacant for two to four weeks.
Another part of the plan will be unveiled today when city staff asks the City Council's Finance Committee for permission to hire a manager for the convention center.
A city report states that eliminating the three positions and hiring a manager will result in a net annual savings of as much as $179,000. The salary for the plaza manager is proposed to be $75,544 to $92,039 plus benefits.
The report states that the position of events supervisor did not have the responsibility and authority needed for successful operation of the center. That conclusion was based, in part, on the city's review of similar convention centers.
The new position of center manager will have more responsibility and authority to manage, promote and market the center, as well as develop a business plan, comprehensive marketing plan and strategic plan to ensure the center's long-term viability.
The Centre Plaza was the centerpiece of Modesto's downtown revitalization when it was built in the late 1980s. The convention center has an annual budget of about $1.3 million.
Impetus is heavy-duty subsidy
But in recent years, operating the convention center has required a $500,000 to $700,000 annual subsidy from the city's general fund. That's money that could be used for public safety and other services.
So the city has been looking for ways to reduce the subsidy, improve operations and even generate more center revenue.
In late October, the city hired retired Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden on a part-time, interim basis to help manage the center and review its operations. He is being paid $50 an hour.
Harden, 51, retired in August after 28 years with the Police Department. He is scheduled to become Hughson's interim city manager March 4.
It would be ideal to have a center manager on board before Harden leaves, but Modesto has a plan in case that does not happen, said Julie Hannon, director of parks, recreation and neighborhoods.
Modesto had considered contracting with Westmont Hospitality Group, the parent company of the DoubleTree Hotel, to manage Modesto Centre Plaza. The hotel adjoins the convention center. But Westmont broke off talks with the city in September.
A company official wrote that the decision was based on information gathered during a due diligence process. Factors in the decision included lagging revenue generated by Centre Plaza and the city's proposed guidelines and performance objectives for the management contract, the official wrote.
The Finance Committee meets at 5 p.m. in Room 2005 at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.