David Gibbons has been running the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority for less than two months, and he’s already trimming millions from the agency’s budget, including the removal of the key executive behind the popular Lawn on D park.
In all, Gibbons eliminated 11 full-time positions and 60 part-time jobs this week from the MCCA’s staff as part of an effort that will save more than $3 million a year, or about 4 percent of the agency’s budget, spokesman Phil Crohan said.
The cuts were focused on the agency’s Lawn on D, along with strategy and product development operations, and part-time event staff. Among those who lost their jobs: Johanna Storella, the agency’s chief strategy officer and architect of the Lawn.
But in a memo to staff on Thursday, Gibbons pledged, among other things, to continue to reinvest in the 2.7-acre park, with a goal of elevating it “to the next level.” And Crohan said the job cuts should have no impact on the Lawn on D, which he said will be rolled into “our already well-established and highly successful operations and marketing teams.” The agency, he said, is committed to maintaining the space “at the highest level.”
The latest cuts follow the elimination of nine positions last year, prior to Gibbons’s arrival, Crohan said. As a result, MCCA officials say they are now budgeting for 450 full- and part-time employees, compared with 530 before the agency’s fiscal year began.
Gibbons was hired as executive director in December by a board that’s controlled by members appointed by Governor Charlie Baker. At the time, Gibbons made it clear he would find cost savings at the agency. He reiterated that priority in Thursday’s memo.
“One of my major goals is to get the MCCA to structural fiscal balance . . . while encouraging management throughout the organization that is guided by a private-sector and customer-based focus,” Gibbons wrote. “While difficult, all of these changes will allow us to be even more agile, effective, and efficient.”
The authority gets an operating subsidy every year from the state’s convention center fund, which relies on tourism taxes and fees. Last year, $15 million was drawn from the fund to support the agency’s operations.
Even before Gibbons’s arrival, MCCA board members were pressuring the staff to make the Lawn on D a self-sustaining operation. The agency opened the park next to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston in 2014. The park draws thousands on a typical summer weekend, but its programming and other expenses total at least $2.5 million a year. The agency spent over $2 million more than it collected in revenue to run the Lawn last year. The staff, under Storella’s direction, had embarked on efforts to close that gap in future years by selling sponsorships and offering more facility rental options at the park.
Gibbons, in his Thursday memo to staff, didn’t address the fate of a proposed $1 billion expansion to the South Boston convention center. Last April, Baker put the expansion on hold, citing the cost. When he was hired in December, Gibbons said he needed more information about the project before making a decision about its future.
In addition to the BCEC in South Boston, the agency runs the Hynes Veterans Convention Center in the Back Bay and the Boston Common Garage, as well as the MassMutual Center in Springfield.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.