City of Branson on track to keep current management at the Convention Center

Branson, Mo. -- Branson city leaders are on track to keep the same management company at the Branson Convention Center.

A company called SMG has managed the Convention Center, which is owned by the City of Branson, for about five years. While some people think that company should keep up its work at the Center, others say it's time for a change.

The Convention Center's General Manager Marc Mulherin says SMG's goal is to bring people to Branson.

"People that are going to go shopping, eat in the restaurants, utilize hotels throughout the community," Mulherin said.

SMG will likely continue to manage the Center. It and the company that manages the adjoined Hilton Hotel, Aimbridge Hospitality, were the only two companies that responded to the City of Branson's request for proposal, or RFP, in April. At that time, the city appointed a group of five community members to follow government mandated criteria and score each of those companies. Based on that criteria, the group recommended SMG for the job. The Board of Aldermen voted on May 14, allowing the city to enter into contract negotiations with SMG.

However, some people don't agree with that recommendation.

Jim Cox hosts two car auctions at the convention center per year. He says having the same company in charge of the Hilton and the Center makes a more seamless process for groups like his.

"If one group is in charge of both the convention center and the hotel, they have the same objective," Cox said.

However, Mulherin calls that a conflict of interest between the Hilton Hotel and the Branson Convention Center.

"If there was issues or challenges on the hotel side, it could come at the expense of the convention center," Mulherin said.

However, Cox also claims SMG could be doing more to fill the schedule.

"I'd like to see better marketing for more events, other than just ours," Cox said.

Meanwhile, Mulherin says they've had growth in the last five years, booking more events in the Center to fill gaps in the season.

"We've showcased that on a three-year attendance increase. That's with the filler events. Because if it wasn't filling the hotel up with hotel rooms, it didn't make much sense. well, now it does," Mulherin said.

The Board of Aldermen has said 'yes' to allowing the city to enter into contract negotiations with SMG. After that contract is complete, it'll go back to the Board to either approve or deny that contract.