California’s Ontario Convention Center is in the midst of a growth spurt. With reports of big increases in year-over-year revenue, number of events hosted and event attendance, the 225,000-sq.-ft. center is reaping the benefits from a well-planned strategy that began in 2012 when Michael Krouse, CMP, CHME, CASE, took over as its president and CEO. His plan involved three substantial adjustments: Link the convention center and Greater Ontario CVB as one entity; reorganize the center’s sales team structure; and, most importantly, develop a tourism marketing district that has generated $2.5 million in marketing dollars for the center annually. Connect spoke with Krouse about Ontario’s meetings success, what’s changing now and what’s coming next.
How has Ontario Convention Center grown under your leadership?
The convention center has experienced significant growth. Most convention centers run on a deficit because they are designed to drive economic impact, but we’ve cut the deficit in half since 2012. The number of conventions from 2014 to 2015 grew by 47 percent, and this year we’re expecting to see an additional 15 percent growth.
Have you done anything to cut costs to further improve your bottom line?
We added solar panels to the building, which resulted in a 25.5 percent decrease in electricity consumption. Even with our growth in days occupied and the number of attendees in the building, we still benefited from the reduction.
In 2015, the city regained control of Ontario International Airport. What does this mean for convention business?
We’ve been fighting legally for years to regain control of our airport from Los Angeles World Airports. Our airport was built [to handle] 10 million people [per year] and was only getting about 4 million. The return of our airport will allow us to be more competitive with the regional airport system, and to have greater direct-flight frequency, additional flights and growth in the international market.
Do you think the convention center will need to expand?
I absolutely believe that, and we’ve already done research on it. We know what the expansion will cost and what it would look like, but it’s all about when we pull the trigger. If things keep going the way they are with the growth in this market, I believe this will need to happen within the next two to five years.