DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The city of Dallas is looking for a private management company to run its Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
The move would match other large cities, including Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles to name a few.
Dallas owns the convention center hotel, but its managed by Omni.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax notified council members in a memo last week.
Council member Tennell Atkins said he wants to know what would happen to the city’s employees at the facility. “There’s no guarantee under privatization they will hire more city employees and that’s my concern.”
Council member Lee Kleinman says the city’s employees have done a good job running the convention center, but he supports the idea of a private firm operating it. “If the private sector can do a better job for us, than us doing it ourselves, that’s a good thing.”
Matt Jones is the Chief Financial and Chief Operating Officer of Visit Dallas, the convention and visitors bureau. “We think this is going to play very well with our customers and clients. I think it’s an exciting time and I think it will send a strong message.”
He says those who book conventions would welcome a private management company. “Rightly or wrongly, meetings and events sometimes feel like when they’re working through red tape with city bureaucracy that can slow down the process and not necessarily have their best interest in mind.”
Jones says the convention center plays a major role in attracting business and tourism to Dallas.
He says last year, the city alone welcomed 26 million visitors who spent $4.6 billion.
But it’s not just big bucks.
The convention center has also hosted some of the most vulnerable citizens — those who were evacuated from areas hit hard by hurricanes.
Councilman Kleinman wants that to continue. “I think we need to be able to utilize that space especially in emergency situations and maybe have first right of refusal or something if we do have a situation that needs it.”
Broadnax told council members that all firms must submit their proposals by June 28.
City administrators will consider them over the summer and recommend a firm to city council members by September.
The transition to a private management firm could happen before the end of the year.