Matt Hollander is Spectra Venue Management’s General Manager at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is presently undergoing a $615 million expansion, renovation, and modernization project. Hollander oversees all of the functional areas of the convention center including sales and marketing, operations, public safety, finance, guest experience, and administration of relationships with third party service providers.
With almost 27 years of industry experience, Hollander has held leadership positions in various venue types or related industry organizations including a DMO, a Sports Commission, performing arts venue, arenas and convention centers. He has overseen major capital projects including new venue construction and major venue renovation projects. Hollander is a Certified Facilities Executive and presently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Board of Governors for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. He also serves as Vice Chair of the Convention Center and Exhibition Halls committee of the International Association of Venue Managers as well as the organization’s Certification Board.
Hollander received his B.A. Degree in Communications from Florida Atlantic University. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida Atlantic.
What is the total cost of the renovation?
The renovation budget is $615 million - a very significant investment. That budget includes all of design, construction, and infrastructure required to bring the site up to state-of-the-art convention center.
The money to finance the project was raised through bonds, which will be paid back through multiple sources. These include the Miami Beach hotel, resort tax and other related county taxes, as well as sales tax on food and beverages.
How do you see the center evolving with trends in the marketplace?
Offering flexibility is the key to attracting meeting planners and event organizers - flexibility within the building and flexibility within the hospitality package. The event must be able to offer a unique experience both within and outside the venue.
There was a perception in the last decade that technology might replace the desire for people to meet face to face or change the way that the sale of products happens or might change the exhibition industry. I think what we are finding is really the opposite. Technology is driving people to want to have more and more of these face-to-face interactions and our venues tend to create those environments. I would say technology and flexibility are probably two of the major trends that we are seeing now.
Another important factor is security. Offering a safe environment where people feel comfortable is a major consideration for us and something that we take very seriously. While we now must invest in the physical infrastructure, we must also invest in the human infrastructure to help make sure that when the attendees come to Miami Beach they feel safe and secure.
What are the peak periods for the facility?
The winter months are the busiest months for the convention center, as well as generally for the rest of the South Florida. Our peak season tends to run from January through April. Hotel occupancy is normally very high during that period and the convention center adds to that demand.
One of the goals of investing into and modernizing the convention center was to ensure that the Miami area maintains its competitiveness at attracting major conventions. Bringing out-of-town visitors to the center provides tremendous business for the hospitality industry and support to the local economy. At the same time, the facility will maintain sufficient capacity to continue supporting local trade and consumer shows.
What is the calendar of events annually?
In a normal year, we would host about 300 events. The challenge right now is the on-going renovation. Despite the disruption, we have stayed in open; however, the number and size of events have been much more limited than normal.
Will the renovation be completed by 2018?
It will be and we are actually working towards a target date. We have a committed to have the building fully operational in late September of 2018. We are on target to successfully host and event at that time.
Despite the construction, we were successfully at hosting the Art Basel show in 2016 using all four exhibit halls, and we are on target to do again in 2017. There was a brief period of shut down at the beginning of this calendar year, but we are on target to host our first event which will start moving into the half of the building on June 7. We are very proud to have been able to keep our event schedule ongoing throughout the renovation.
What are some of the other facets of Miami Beach that are important?
There is a vibe associated with Miami Beach and excitement not found anywhere else. At the same time, Miami Beach is a place were serious business gets done.
Miami and Miami Beach are developing or emerging as centers for technology. The first show that we are hosting in June is called “eMERGE” which focuses on technology.
We are also very much on the leading edge of discussions around climate change and our environment. Because this is an island community, we see first hand the impact of global warming and climate change. Our city leadership’s been very engaged in climate-change related discussions, not just locally or regionally, but internationally. By necessity, Miami Beach must become as a leader in this space.
So there are a lot of exciting things going on here. The growth, development and investment in the area are really indicative of the sense of optimism that things are going to continue to trend in a favorable direction for us.