Blake Henry has been named as the general manager of the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC).
Henry most recently served as GM of the Cross Insurance Center Arena and Convention Center Complex in Bangor, Maine. An industry veteran, he has more than 20 years of experience leading major convention, sporting, and entertainment facilities. His career includes leadership positions in venues across the country from Los Angeles to Owensboro, Kentucky, to New York City.
After beginning his career at the STAPLES Center, working with the L.A. Kings, L.A. Lakers and many other organizations, Henry spent 11 years at the PlayStation Theater, overseeing its construction and grand opening, which culminated in winning the “Pollstar’s Best New Venue” award. He has extensive knowledge in developing facility operational policies, rental rate structures, and creative marketing opportunities to drive venue profits while simultaneously improving guest experiences. Henry will be responsible for all day-to-day operations of KICC.
“As we continue building on the success of KICC’s re-opening, Blake’s experience and proven track record will be an asset to Kentucky Venues,” said David S. Beck, President and CEO of Kentucky Venues. “He’s served in numerous roles at different facilities and knows the ins-and-outs of running a successful convention center.”
“Like greater Kentucky, KICC is a beautiful place, filled with hardworking people,” Henry said. “I’m excited to join the Kentucky Venues team and further advance its partnership with Louisville Tourism. A fresh leadership vision coupled with KICC’s state-of-the-art facility will yield significant meetings and conventions and ensure Louisville remains a premier business and tourism friendly destination.”
The convention center re-opened in August 2018 following a two-year, $207 million renovation and expansion. KICC features 200,125 sq. foot of continuous Class A exhibit space, as well as a 40,000 sq. foot ballroom, 52 reimagined meeting rooms, and a 175-seat tiered conference theatre.
KICC and the Kentucky Exposition Center are managed by Kentucky Venues, which is the organizational brand of the Kentucky State Fair Board.
Centerplate announced a multi-year contract extension for food and beverage services with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home to the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, and Smoothie King Center, home to the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
Known for serving creative and exciting menu items ranging from alligator sausage and fresh Gulf shrimp to Cajun gumbo and Ponchatoula strawberries, Centerplate’s menus at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King arena boast flavorful, authentic southern and Creole dishes, earning accolades from fans and visitors. Recognized by The Daily Meal as the number one NFL stadium in its recent feature “15 Best Stadiums for Food,” Centerplate’s 2019 NFL playoff menus for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome included pigskin po’boys, pulled pork barbecue bowls, fleur de lis crab cake sandwiches, and an alligator BLT with chips.
“We are extraordinarily proud of our teams, our city, and the talented members of our professional culinary and service staff, and we are excited to continue as the exclusive hospitality provider at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Smoothie King Center and Champions Square,” said Steve Trotter, Centerplate Regional Vice President. “We will continue to source locally – including such iconic brands as Dixie Beer and Zatarain’s – to support the community and delight our fans and guests.”
A top host city for numerous NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours, Super Bowls, NBA All-Star Weekends, college football playoff and championship games and WrestleMania, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center stage such annual events as the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Essence Festival, and Bayou Classic as well many “A list” concert attractions.
“As we continue to transform these venues into premier entertainment destinations and leaders in guest services, we are happy to continue working with Centerplate as our exclusive hospitality partner,” said Alan Freeman, SMG General Manager. “In the seasons ahead, fans can look forward to Centerplate’s upgrades to technology and menus. Working with the Centerplate team, we are dedicated to providing a more seamless food service experience for our fans.”
Among the major upcoming events for the two venues are the 2020 NCAA Women’s Final Four, 2020 CFP Championship Game, 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four and Super Bowl 58 in 2024.
The Owensboro (KY) Convention Center announced the details of a new partnership with German American Bank. The City of Owensboro, the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, the Owensboro Convention Center and German American Bank, made the announcement on June 5 at a ribbon-cutting event.
“We are excited to make this announcement which strengthens our commitment to the Owensboro community,” said Amy Jackson, Regional President of German American Bank. “This partnership with the Owensboro Convention Center aligns well with German American Bank’s dedication to support local communities and enhance quality of life.”
Spectra’s General Manager, Laura Alexander, said, “This is a very exciting announcement for the community and we are happy to partner with the team at German American Bank.”
Spectra is the provider of venue management and food services and hospitality to the Owensboro Convention Center.
Laurie Flasko, Founder and CEO of Laurie Flasko & Associates, Inc., knows about customer service. With more than 20 years of experience in the fields of customized training, customer service, leadership development, and team building, her skill set is one that draws audiences to become better equipped in these areas of their own organizations. It is a reason why when she delivers the keynote presentation for the Convention Center track at VenueConnect in Chicago in July that the room is expected to be full of IAVM members looking for special nuggets about customer service to take back home.
If in part of her presentation the topic of casinos pops up, don’t be surprised. Laurie began her training career as part of the pre-opening team at Casino Niagara, where she was responsible for training more than 2,500 employees. Later, she was recruited by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission to deliver the pre-opening customer service and leadership training for the racetrack slots and charity casinos.
Against this backdrop, it is time to visit with Laurie about her presentation and what attendees can expect to hear during the session.
“Dare to be Kind” is part of the title of your session. Do you find that most leaders seem to have somewhat of a difficult time accepting this concept and if so, why?
Many of us have been taught that to be a leader, you have to be tough, you can “never let them see you sweat” and “nice guys finish last.” You don’t see a K.P.I. for kindness in most workplaces, so when leaders are only measured on bottom line results, it can be easy to overlook kindness as a successful and powerful approach to leadership. That being said, trends are starting to indicate that more and more leaders are embracing the concept of kind leadership.
Can kindness be falsely interpreted as weakness?
Absolutely it can. However, I find that kindness is anything but weak, rather I find that it is a display of strength! It can be tough to choose kindness when you are busy; dealing with deadlines or critical issues and it is easy to become irritated, angry; or impatient.
As well, kindness does not mean you don’t take care of tough issues. For example, a tough conversation about a performance issue is more productive when done in a respectful, kind manner than when delivered without thought, care; or empathy. Finally, kindness also goes hand in hand with resilience, being able to handle whatever life throws your way in a kind way.
What are some of the benefits leaders derive from applying kind principles?
When someone acts kind, one act of kindness creates a “ripple effect” of four more kind acts according to research from Stamford University. This “ripple effect” creates stronger teams, higher morale, higher employee engagement, higher customer satisfaction, reduced stress, and, of course, all of these make higher profits! So aside from making everyone feel all happy inside, there is a legitimate benefit to being kind that justifies kindness being a business strategy rather than just a warm and fuzzy thing to do.
Kindness also works in a positive loop: you do something kind for others, you are happier and want to continue doing more kind acts! No record profit can compare to the difference being kind makes for people feeling happier in their everyday lives both in and out of the workplace.
My favorite benefit of all is that leaders may be changing an entire life without knowing it just by doing something small and kind for those they lead and look after.
In such a fast-paced world as our members live in working at busy venues, are these principles even more important to overall staff performance?
It has been said that nearly 85% of leader’s results are based on the work of other people, and in this industry in particular it may be even higher. Based on the amount of “spinning parts” it takes to run a successful venue and the fast-paced environment of the industry, it becomes easier to forget things such as kindness in favor of results and productivity. However, it is these little things that make the difference between a good and a WOW experience for your team and your customers.
Do you have any takeaways you would like to share for those who attend your session to take back to their convention center?
Kindness is a legitimate business advantage to those who effectively use it in the workplace. It isn’t weak, but rather the opposite as it takes strength and effort to act kind. The results speak for themselves.
Kind leaders are seen more favorably, get more work done for them, get more emotional buy-in and can change both their own and others’ lives through even small acts of kindness for those they lead.
Engagement scores increase, customer satisfaction and loyalty grows, teams strengthen, stress reduces, and people are happier when leaders lead with kindness.
Cliff Wallace, CVE, just added one more accolade to a career full of them when he was honored with the Venue Management Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2019 Venue Industry Awards recently completed at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Wallace, member of the board of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, was feted at the Asia-Pacific Venue Industry Congress along with several other honored category recipients.
VMA says its Lifetime Achievement Award “looks to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of an industry stalwart who has made a significant contribution to the Association, the venue management profession and our industry in the Asia Pacific region.”
That person is in full bloom with Cliff Wallace, known to people inside and outside the industry throughout the world as a tireless worker and champion of the public assembly venue industry.
Wallace’s career in the industry spans a remarkable 57 years and indeed covers the globe, something even Wallace said he could not have foreseen happening at one time earlier in his career. Among his professional association credits Wallace served as IAVM (then IAAM) President in 1984-85 while in New Orleans, and is an Honorary President of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI).
Notably in the Asia and Pacific region, Wallace has been an instructor at the VMA Venue Management School (VMS) from 1996 to 2012, has served on the VMA Board from 2001 through 2003, and has often spoken at the annual Congress. He has also contributed significantly to industry initiatives in Asia as well as playing a key role in establishing the VMA’s Affiliation Agreement with the IAVM in 2007.
He has been an enthusiastic member and ambassador for the VMA and VMS in the region and has been instrumental in expanding the reach into Asia by both sending and encouraging many students to attend the VMS, and in the development of the VMA/UFI partnership to deliver the VMS China School.
“Our industry is unique and draws to it incredible individuals who are passionate about what they do,” said VMA President Steve Harper, CVE. “From memorable moments for their patrons to iconic events that form part of our nation’s culture and history, they are a rare breed and we love to celebrate them.”
Other recipients at the VVMA’s Asia-Pacific Venue Industry Congress include:
Venue Professional of the Year Award – Gary Mears CVE – General Manager, The Events Centre – Caloundra
Allied Professional of the Year Award – Paul McCarthy – Director, PBM Safety
Young Achiever of the Year Award – Eray Saban – Stadium Event Manager, Marvel Stadium