New management nears takeover

When the Blair County Convention Center and Sports Facilities Authority takes over managing the convention center on Aug. 1, it will employ 10 full-time and 37 part-time employees, most of whom already work at the convention center for Explore Altoona, the current manager.

In preparation for the transition, the authority met Wednesday and authorized officers to sign several documents, including ones establishing accounts at First National Bank and First Commonwealth Bank, specifically for the convention center’s operations.

The arrangements should allow for the transition to occur without any noticeable changes, General Manager Barry Kumpf said Wednesday.

The convention center has one client booked on Aug. 1. Ten additional clients are booked for the rest of the month, including a three-day gun show, from Aug. 23-25, that will be open to the public.

Meanwhile, Explore Altoona’s five-member staff will move out of their offices at the convention center on July 31 and relocate to the Brett Building in downtown Altoona. Explore Altoona, formerly known as the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau, has had its offices in the convention center since the facility opened in 2001.

The move is part of the Explore Altoona’s decision to end its role as convention center manager, Executive Director Mark Ickes said Wednesday. That decision, with support from the authority, was announced earlier this year as a way for each entity to concentrate on its own responsibilities and future.

Ickes said a transition committee looked at several sites for Explore Altoona’s offices and settled on the Brett Building, across from its visitors information center at the Altoona Transportation Center. With advances in technology and communication options, Ickes said a specific location has become immaterial.

“We could do an effective job from a broom closet, in this day and age,” he said.

Kumpf, who has worked for Explore Altoona since June 2010 as the convention center’s general manager, will retain his current duties when the authority becomes his employer. The authority set his salary at $79,000 annually, after reviewing a salary survey completed by The Lytle Group of Hollidaysburg which evaluated salaries paid to others with comparable duties and responsibilities.

The authority also used that same report when voting to hire, as of Aug. 1, the following as full-time employees: Steve Despot as facilities manager, $68,826 annually; Michael Ferrari as executive chef, $64,330 annually; Carol Reiger as director of convention and meeting sales, $46,013 annually; Charlene Troxell as a bookkeeper, $33,000 annually; Joseph Harteis, business development specialist, $30,430 annually; and three facilities technicians: David Bickel at $12.61 per hour, Terry Weaver at $11.65 an hour, and Michael Snyder at $11 an hour.

The convention center’s part-time staff of 37, who work on an as-needed basis, includes kitchen staff, bartenders, dining room servers and facilities technicians. Most of their salaries are between $10 and $12 per hour.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.