KICC General Manager Blake Henry Leads Louisville Into the Future

Blake Henry, Kentucky International Convention Center’s new general manager, is proud to take the reins and continue Bourbon city’s growth.  

KICC General Manager Blake Henry Leads Louisville Into the Future

“Vibrant culture for residents builds tourism, bottom line,” says Henry. And Louisville’s numerous accolades, combined with Henry’s 20 years’ of event experience, make the city and Kentucky International Convention Center a shining star for meetings. 

An industry vet who began his career at the STAPLES Center working with the L.A. Kings, Henry has led major convention, sporting and entertainment facilities in Los Angeles, Owensboro, Kentucky, and New York City and knows everything it takes to successfully operate a convention center. He’s all about sustaining the growth of the center, which completed a two-year, $207 million renovation and expansion in August 2018. Connect spoke with Henry to learn what the future holds for Bourbon city and KICC.

1. What attracted you to Kentucky International Convention Center?

This venue received a $207 million renovation, and to have a brand-new facility right in the heart of this wonderful city that’s experiencing so much growth is the perfect storm that attracted me to this position and Louisville. It reminds me of Austin 10 years ago. It’s on the rise and attracting a lot of millennials and private investment. We bring millions of dollars of economic impact to the city and county to create jobs, growth and revitalizations in downtown.  It’s so cool to be a part of the process, and the stakeholders that are involved in that process are collaborative. The willingness to get things done downtown as a group has been a great experience to be working with all these people that share the same vision.

2. How do you plan to lean KICC?

Because I’ve worked at a variety of venues and different markets, I’ve been able to learn about different rental structures and policies that work to attract new business. Working essentially with a brand-new venue with so much to offer, we have the opportunity to rethink and reimagine. But it’s not all about rates and space. It’s about what we’re going to do to start thinking about sustaining our growth, especially with what the city is experiencing now. You have to be creative in that process, and we’re always challenging our staff here to come up with the interesting ideas that are relevant to improve the guest experience.

3. What are some of those plans in motion?

We’re a collaborative initiative with Louisville Tourism to come up with some ideas and an action plan to sustain our growth. It’s about affordability and our personalized service, ease of access and unique local flavor that you get here in a tier two city. Something that’s always high on everyone’s radar is that you push the envelope in customer service—and safety, too. It’s just not about getting people inside the door; it’s about getting them out in a safe manner and how we communicate that to our attendees as well. So that’s something we were lucky to do during our renovations, to improve our security system. 

4. KICC renovation allowed for larger and more ambitious events like Connect 2019 in August. How does the convention center prepare to host an event to that magnitude?

Having open and constant communication regarding client expectations with venue staff. Managing expectations and hosting successful events requires teamwork. I am so proud of our team here at KICC and the good communication across service departments to pull off a successful event. Connect Marketplace was the golden goose for the venue. I like to thank Louisville Tourism.They did a wonderful job in that process and it’s a great example of how we can work together with our partner Louisville Tourism.

5. With the recent LEED Silver certification, what is the center's plan for sustainability?

We have storage and collection of recyclables and LED lighting throughout the building. We have energy-efficient HVAC equipment that results in a lot of great percentage and energy costs in savings, and water-efficient low-flow plumbing throughout the facility. 

6. What makes Louisville and the convention center an international destination for tourism and the meetings and events?

Louisville has steadily become one of the hottest travel destinations in the U.S. It’s a booming bourbon renaissance to its culinary jewels to its iconic events and attractions. Louisville offers a menu of the things to see and do all wrapped in its hallmark Southern charm. It’s a wonderful city to live in, work and visit. I can’t think of a greater city in this country to be involved with.