LAKE PLACID - The Conference Center at Lake Placid held its grand opening a year ago today, and the people in charge of running it say the facility is doing well so far.
But those same officials believe the venue is just starting to live up to its potential.
Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO and President Ted Blazer said this week that officials from ORDA and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau have worked well together in the conference center's first year in operation. He said the two groups continue to make progress in marketing it.
The conference center, located at the Olympic Center on Main Street in Lake Placid, hosted 74 total event days in its first year, according to Olympic Center Manager Denny Allen. Centerplate, which operates the center's full-service kitchen, sold $523,000 worth of food, of which ORDA received approximately $47,000.
Room rental revenue totaled $68,874, Allen said.
"The building has proven to be quite flexible," he said. "All the systems are working to spec. We are having a little software issue with the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) program in a couple of the rooms, but the contractor is working with us and hopefully we'll get those worked out."
The conference center's grand opening was June 21, 2011, although the center began held events in May 2011. The facility has more than 90,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. It has 12 rooms for concurrent sessions, a 9,000-square-foot ballroom that can hold 1,000 people, and a full-service kitchen, run by Centerplate, that can feed up to 8,000 people.
The seeds for the center were planted in 2006 when then-Gov. George Pataki pledged $20 million for the project.
Groups like the New York State Credit Union, the Civil Service Employees Association and the New York State Snowmobile Association have held meetings at the center. It's also hosted a visit by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and two visits by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.
"We're presently soliciting business from U.S Hockey, PSA (Professional Skaters Association), U.S. Figure Skating, FIS (International Ski Federation) and USOC (United States Olympic Committee)," Allen said. "We're making a concerted effort with the other authority venues to coordinate wedding and rehearsal dinner requests, and any special event request that they may have."
Allen said labor costs for ORDA have been "quite low." He said he currently has two part-time employees who split their duties between the conference center and the rest of the building.
While ORDA's focus is managing the operation of the conference center, the LPVCB is responsible for marketing it.
LPVCB President and CEO Jim McKenna said his organization is primarily concerned with developing a "lead list" of potential clients.
"Through our means, we've actually identified over the last eight months 336 potential organizations coming to the area," he said. "And we've started now to whittle down through that last."
McKenna said Lake Placid has historically attracted a strong conference business.
"But as we were out of it for a number of years, some of the other competitors have come up a bit," he said. "So it's sometimes a challenge getting them to drive that extra hour-and-a-half. Getting their site committees here is what we've been concentrating on, because once you get them here, it seems to play out a little bit."
Six groups have already booked the conference center for 2013, and two more are preparing to sign contracts. McKenna said a few others have given him verbal positives, but no contracts.
"Things are developing," he said. "We're keeping very good track and when people turn us down, (we ask) what the reasons are so we can start addressing those, because we do get those on a regular basis.
"Working with some of these groups today is not so much, 'Yes, we have space available, come and get it and it's yours.' There's a lot of logistics that we have to work out."
Those logistics include finding lodging properties to accommodate groups of 300 to 400 people, and scheduling conferences in time blocks that don't interfere with other big events, McKenna said.
"But we're confident that when we get people in the building, it pretty much does sell itself," he said.
Pat Barrett, chairman of ORDA's Board of Directors, said he's impressed by the working relationship between ORDA and the visitors bureau. He said he'd like to see more publicity surrounding upcoming conferences and conventions, so the community is aware of which groups are in the area using the facility.