Convention center to start hiring

The Blair County Convention Center and Sports Facilities Authority is starting to build a budget to start operating the convention center in August with a staff of 10 full-time and one part-time employees.

The authority on Wednesday authorized convention center General Manager Barry Kumpf to begin offering jobs to Explore Altoona employees who currently handle convention center duties.

Explore Altoona, formerly known as the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau, has managed the convention center for the authority since the center opened in May 2001. But the management agreement between that agency and the authority expires in August, so the authority has started taking steps to operate the center on its own.

Kumpf, who currently works for Explore Altoona as convention center manager, is expected to be hired by authority and retain those responsibilities.

After the board authorized him to begin offering jobs, Kumpf said he wants to begin the convention center’s operations with 2 sales staffers, a catering manager, a facilities manager, three facilities staffers, a bookkeeper and a chef.

Kumpf said that’s a lean staff for a 48,000-square foot facility, but his personal goal will be to achieve at least a $1 balance in the black. Convention centers across the nation typically operate in the red and depend on governmental support to make up shortfalls.

Based on preliminary figures, Kumpf estimates that the convention center, as operated by the authority, will bring in about $1.2 million and that operating expenses will range from about $1.2 million to $1.3 million.

Huntingdon accountant Steve Koval, hired by the authority to work with Kumpf on a proposed budget and related financial matters, told the authority that it has “some opening cash” for starting the independent operation. But Koval also suggested that some of the county’s bed tax revenue could help balance a proposed budget.

Blair County commissioners, who created the authority to build and operate the convention center, have never allocated general fund tax revenue dollars for the convention center’s operations. But a portion of the county’s bed tax revenue, paid by those who stay at local lodging facilities, is designated annually to cover debt the authority incurred to build the convention center.

The authority also is pursuing its own public venue liquor license. Unlike a restaurant’s liquor license that can be sold, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board requires an application to be filed for a public venue license, attorney Brendan Moran told the authority.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.