By R.V. Baugus
His public assembly venue background spans working in stadiums, arenas, and convention centers, but it is the latter for which Robert Rose, CVE, will be recognized at VenueConnect in Phoenix when he receives the Convention Center Lifetime Achievement Award. The retired IAVM member is most recognized with the Tampa Convention Center where he retired after 22 years with myriad titles including Event Operations Manager/Chief Operating Officer/Convention Facilities Director.
“Jim Finch called me and told me about the award and I said, ‘What!'” Rose recalled. “I can’t believe it and the next thought was, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
That answer would be a resounding no for a respected industry professional who dedicated so much of his career for the good of the profession as well as the convention center sector.
“I know the people that have been blessed to have the award over the years,” Rose said. “I was flabbergasted because I know all of the committee work, board work, and regional work and all those things that they’ve done in their career and running the buildings.”
Indeed, Rose is intimate in knowing what it takes to receive such a prestigious honor. He previously served on the committee that identified candidates to receive the award.
“We had a great group of people that were helping with trying to find the best possible candidates,” he said. “There were some extremely qualified people that were being considered and we were so blessed to over time be able to fit almost everybody in to receive the award. It’s a wonderful award for anyone to be recognized in that manner.”
Rose noted the irony that last year’s recipient, Barry Strafacci, is also synonomous with the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.
“Barry has helped me in so many ways,” Rose said. “He is actually in the same county in which I live. He has been on a number of the (IAVM) committees and when I saw he had gotten the award I was so thankful. He’s really worked so hard for the association.”
The same is true of Rose, who became an IAVM member in 1978. He has participated on numerous committees including Convention Center, Research, Benchmark Advisory, and Membership. He has also chaired the Region 5 Officers and earned his Certified Venue Executive designation in 2004.
“I had to learn from scratch because I came from a parks and recreation background in 1978 and had an assistant at that facility in Allen Park, Michigan, who said I needed to be involved with (then) IAAM,” Rose said. “It was a brand-new job and they had never had anybody who had run their facilities. It was a civic arena that was an ice arena, primarily, but we did special events and that’s where I was learning about that part of the business and what to do with them.”
From there, Rose went to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he learned from one of the very best in Lionel Dubay during his five-year stay.
“One of my favorite things about Lionel is he wants you to grow,” Rose said. “He loves to have his interns and all of his staff learn about the business. He’s very generous that way and taught me so much.”
With Florida roots planted, Rose headed south to work at the Florida Suncoast Dome/ThunderDome/Tropicana Field, then Director of Event Services & Bookings with the MLB Tampa Bay Rays before setting sail on a long and distinguished career at the Tampa Convention Center.
“Early on, even in the late 70’s and then probably my first conference in the early 80’s, people made me feel so welcome,” Rose said. “It was my first conference and here I am talking to people running the association … a young kid and didn’t know much of anything at that point and talking to the president of the association about the business and the characteristics we should have to honor the industry and do the right thing.
“Those are the kinds of moments you have to have to really help you to look back and say I’m so glad I did all these things and learned from all these people. Receiving this award is definitely a humbling experience because I don’t know that I feel that I have had enough of a career to even receive such an honor. But I’m very blessed someone must have felt that I was definitely someone they wanted to recognize which makes me feel wonderful.”