Charlottes tourism authority no longer reports detailed financial performance of taxpayer-owned buildings it operates, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center.
But Tom Murray, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, told the City Council Monday night that his new financial accounting strategy is designed to change how the CRVA operates and is meant to be as transparent as possible.
Under Murray, the CRVA only reports the financial performance for its entire organization, making it difficult to know how taxpayer-owned buildings are faring.
The CRVA has come under criticism in the past for how it managed some buildings, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That criticism was one reason that council members pressed the CRVA board in 2011 to demote Tim Newman and hire a new chief executive.
During Murrays presentation Monday, council members were mostly silent or supportive of the new plan.
However, Democrat Michael Barnes and Republican Andy Dulin questioned some of the changes, which are part of a plan called One CRVA.
I would urge you to make clear what each entity is doing, Barnes told Murray.
He added that if he has a financial breakdown on each building, he can better understand how the CRVA is performing.
If I see the Hall of Fame is continuing to suck wind, I know what that means, Barnes said.
In the past, the CRVA would allocate some shared costs, such as marketing, among different buildings. Under One CRVA, it allocates revenues and expenses into three areas: Market, Manage, and Maximize.
We are trying to leave the old silos behind, said Murray, who has been chief executive for 13 months.
He added that the CRVA is a public organization and more detailed financial information can be gathered through public records requests.
The CRVA helped Charlotte host the Democratic National Convention in September, which many in the city considered a success. Murray said the DNC helped the citys hotel industry have a strong 2012, and that the industry has rebounded to pre-recession levels.
The Mecklenburg County occupancy rate for hotels and motels was 66.3 percent in 2012, up from 66.1 percent in 2007.
We are at a historic level
Murray acknowledged to council members that the CRVA isnt entirely responsible for that increase and that the strengthening of the overall economy is a main factor.
But he said we are at a historic level in hotel performance. He added that he believes developers will look to break ground on new hotels soon.
Murray told council members that the Charlotte Convention Center faces two potential lean years in 2015 and 2016, with bookings well below their normal pace.
Other than the data on the county hotel industry, there were few specific details in the PowerPoint presentation shown to council members.
On a slide for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the CRVAs presentation only alluded to general topics sales, marketing & communications, facility management but did not elaborate.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame has struggled since it opened in May 2010. It was first projected to have 800,000 attendance in its first year and 400,000 a year after that.
Actual attendance in its first two years was 272,000 and 197,000. For the first six months of the current fiscal year, the hall has attracted 88,990 people, according to CRVA information released to the Observer last week. That would put it on pace to attract about 175,000 people for its third year.
Murray said the NASCAR hall is doing better than expected as an entertainment venue and site for meetings and parties. He said revenue from those events is now exceeding money from ticket sales.
He said the halls revenue is up $80,000 over budget for the year.
Dulin questioned Murrays decision to have only six board meetings a year instead of 12.
Im not trying to run your business, but to me more reporting is better reporting, Dulin said.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was highly critical of Newmans management in 2011, didnt question the new accounting strategy.
He did express concern that the CRVAs focus on meeting financial targets might compromise its ability to market the entire city, including venues that it doesnt operate.
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