Convention Center Authority calls critical report flawed

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A recent report by Republican lawmakers about the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority’s finances makes incorrect assumptions about its operations, according to the authority’s executive director.

Republican lawmakers who are trying to identify wasteful spending said the authority’s facilities are too often empty and aren’t attracting enough new business and that managers need to do more to control costs.

Executive Director James McCarvill said Wednesday that the report contains factual errors and the authority isn’t meant to be profitable.

McCarvill said the facilities’ purpose is to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. A recent economic impact study by an advisory and planning firm estimated the facilities generated more than $717 million for the local economy from 2009 to 2013, attracted millions of people to Providence and supported about 1,200 jobs annually, he added.

“It’s basically a business that’s occupied by the public sector because the private sector would never make those kinds of investments,” McCarvill said. “From its genesis, it’s there to create revenues elsewhere than within the four walls.”

The authority operates the Convention Center, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Veterans Memorial Auditorium and two parking garages. McCarvill said the convention center is occupied more often than other regional centers.

The report said state taxpayers pay the authority’s debt obligations and operating and maintenance costs for the convention center. It said that with such favorable terms, the authority’s executives bear little to no repercussions for low revenues, missed profit targets or mismanagement.

Deputy Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who led the policy group, said the authority hasn’t focused on growing the business. The group wants the authority to reduce costs, develop a better marketing plan and set goals for employees that are tied to business growth.

The authority is cutting costs where possible and improving services, McCarvill said, but it won’t report its progress to the group as requested.

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