The Washington Convention Center Authority, which owns and manages the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, has merged with the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission to create a new entity, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority.
The new authority will oversee meetings and conventions as well as sporting and entertainment events throughout the city, says Gregory O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority. O’Dell had been president and CEO of the WCCA. O’Dell says the merger will create synergies and efficiencies that will increase the economic impact of conventions, meetings, sports, and entertainment to the District of Columbia.
Atlanta has a similar convention/sports authority model. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority oversees the convention center, Georgia Dome, and Centennial Park.
Meeting planners won’t notice any changes, O’Dell says. “We have a distinct convention center operation that will stay intact, so everyone who was dedicated to supporting that operation and supporting our customers will still be focused on that,” he says. Samuel Thomas, who was deputy general manager at the WCCA, will serve as senior vice president and general manager of the WCSA’s Convention Center Operations Division.
O’Dell believes the new authority will give planners easier access to sporting and entertainment venues, such as Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and Nationals Park, for their events. They also will have the opportunity to incorporate or package sports and entertainment activities into their conventions through the new authority.
Destination DC remains the sales andarm of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, promoting the center and booking conventions that reserve space 18 months out or more.