Convention center leaders hoping for improvement in second half of 2021

The Blair County Convention Center leaders are beginning 2021 with hope of business improving, especially in the second half of the year.

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping operations at minimal levels, the authority managing the center is hoping that as 2021 progresses, more booked events will be held as people become vaccinated and less susceptible to the coronavirus.

For that reason, the third and fourth quarters are expected to generate more income than the first two quarters, Chairman Jamie VanBuren predicted during a budget review showing 2021’s projected revenue at $957,000.

“Hopefully, we will look back at the end of year and say that was conservative,” VanBuren said.

A year ago, the convention center authority was reviewing 2019’s fiscal report with revenue at

$2.2 million, about $118,000 more than in 2018.

When adopting a 2020 budget, authority members and former executive director Rocco Alianiello spoke of increasing revenue and bookings.

That anticipation died as 2020’s booked events continued to be canceled in light of the coronavirus and as Gov. Tom Wolf levied restrictions on indoor gatherings.

The convention center’s financial report for 2020, reviewed in November, showed the facility ending with $424,000 loss that would be covered with reserve funds. Revenue for 2020 was at $474,000, while expenses were projected at $898,000.

Authority Chairman Richard Karcher said Wednesday that he will name authority members to a committee to work with Tom Schilling, the facility’s chef who is serving as interim operations manager, and Tara Saltzburg, marketing and sales director, to focus on the center’s future and potential.

He also praised them and facilities manager Steve Despot for their efforts that are keeping the facility open and available for use.

As for beginning the search for a new executive director, Karcher said he favored keeping that on hold based on current conditions, drawing concurrence from other authority members.

“(Schilling) has stepped into those shoes, admirably,” Karcher said. “So I’d stay with the status quo for now.”

The authority voted Wednesday to hire Lori Longenecker at $40,000 annually as the facility’s bookkeeper and administrative assistant. She is to undergo training with Barbara Wise, the convention center’s former finance director who resigned last year.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.


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