Dave Anderson is Regional Vice President of Spectra Venue Management, and General Manager at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, FL, a 350,000 square foot architectural masterpiece with a new connected convention center hotel and parking garage.
Anderson handles all day-to-day operational matters at the Palm Beach County Convention Center and ensures their diverse groups leave with an exceptional experience. He is also responsible for the regional account supervision of various Spectra accounts including the Miami Beach Convention Center as well as other venues managed by Spectra Venue Management on the East Coast.
With over 20 years of industry experience in convention centers, arenas and theaters, Anderson has held several positions within the facility management industry including Sales Manager and Director of Events. He currently serves as Vice President of the Florida Facilities Managers Association and sits on the Convention Center Committee for the International Association of Venue Managers.
Anderson earned his B.A. Degree from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
What is the history of the facility?
The Palm Beach County Convention Center opened in January 2004. The estimated cost of the building was $84 million, which was funded by Convention Center events and our local tourist development tax. The building was designed by the noted architectural firm, Tvsdesign based in Atlanta, GA.
Prior to 2004, Palm Beach/West Palm Beach was one of the few mid-tier Florida cities that did not have a large meeting or convention center. To the south of us were the Miami Beach and Broward County Convention Centers, but there was no significant facility north of Fort Lauderdale. After much debate, a decision was made by the county to build this facility right in the center of downtown West Palm Beach.
However, the problem we faced in attracting business to West Palm was the lack of a connected hotel. For the first 12 years, we operated the facility at a competitive disadvantage to other sites because of the hotel situation. While there was a Marriott nearby and a Hyatt Place next door, we still fell short on meeting the needs of some large events due to the lack of a connected hotel.
In 2010, the county commissioners selected Related Companies based in New York, the builder of CityPlace, to construct a hotel on the convention center grounds. The building was completed in January 2016. The 400 room Hilton Hotel, which is connected on the east side of the center, has been a fantastic addition to the campus.
As soon as the opening date was announced, meeting planners that had previously passed us by showed new interest. Since the opening, business has been extremely strong. The hotel has truly made a significant difference in bringing convention and conference business to the area along with a noticeable impact on the community’s economy.
Can you describe the facility?
The gross square footage of the building is around 365,000 square feet. We have 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, a ballroom of 23,000 square feet, and 23,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
One of the keys to our success is our flexibility. We do whatever we can to adapt our space to the needs of our clients.
What is unique about the Palm Beach County Convention Center?
The Palm Beach County Convention Center is a small, intimate facility located in West Palm Beach. Architecturally, it’s a contemporary-looking facility with mahogany wood ceilings, marble floors, and knockdown texture for walls
The convention center is less than 10 minutes away from Palm Beach International Airport. Attendees can use a cab, or even public transportation without spending 30 or 40 minutes traveling between the airport and the convention center.
Right across the street from the facility is our entertainment district called CityPlace. It is a combination of restaurants, shops, and entertainment facilities. The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, one of the top theaters on the East Coast, is less than a quarter mile away. The beautiful beaches of Palm Beach are just a mile to the east.
Though our facility is small for the conventions and conferences, its proximity to everything needed for a successful multi-day conference or convention gives us an advantage. Planners can offer attendees this beautiful, convenient location, which has everything they need.
What types of events take place at your facility?
We recently hosted seven trade conferences in eight weeks that varied from nurse practitioners, aviation mechanics, water resources, to geo-mapping. For consumer events, we host a number of high-end art and car antique shows; social black-tie functions; and wedding events.
Every year in January and February, we host two internationally renowned art and antique shows. Our clients transform the 100,000-square foot exhibit hall into simulated store fronts. Then we host the Florida Sunshine Games, the largest amateur sporting event in the state. They have events like weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, fencing, and judo.
One of our great selling points is our size. Many of our clients appreciate the fact that they have the entire facility to themselves. Rather than sharing the space with multiple other events, which one often finds in larger venues, they have the entire center to themselves.
We just hosted the Governor’s Hurricane Conference. The event brought every emergency response unit from the State of Florida, as well as all the country’s hurricane professionals. The multi-day conference focused on the state’s current readiness for the up-coming hurricane season.
We have hosted the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus right in our exhibit hall. They set up bleachers and constructed a single ring complete with elephants and performers.
Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker, is one of our favorite clients. He started doing his unique events at our facility three years ago. He attracts people from all around the United States and people from around the world come to hear him speak.
At each of his events, he fills our hall with nearly 7,000 attendees. All those out-of-town visitors staying in our community, eating in restaurants, and shopping creates a positive impact on our economy.
What is the role of the Public Relations support team?
We have an in-house marketing manager that works directly with our clients in advance of the event. If it’s a consumer show, we will assist them with press releases, social media, and TV interviews. For conventions and conferences, we will work with the meeting planners and the local press to bring TV coverage right to the event.
How do you see the facility evolving in the next three to five years?
Until recently, our parking lot was limited to 1,100 spaces, but the county helped us out by building a 2,500-spot parking garage on the southeast corner of the facility. They also built a covered walkway connecting the garage and the convention center.
Because of space limitations, we would not have had room to expand; but, with the new parking garage, we now have space to double the size of the building.
Right now, the new hotel, garage, airport, and attractive location, puts us in a perfect position to compete pretty much against anybody. With our economic success, we will be able to start discussions with the county about expansion in the near future.