For the first eight months of 2012, when Mark Thompson clocked out as vice president of marketing for the Irving, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau, he traded strategic plans for a crowbar and hard hat.
Unlike some hands-on workers, however, Thompson’s position was strictly volunteer. And as he tackled a complete remodel of the home he’d occupied since the mid-1990s, he came to realize the role wasn’t really that different than his day job. After all, Thompson is used to building things as he oversees the bureau’s marketing, communications and research initiatives and, most notably, the Irving Convention Center project.
The Irving Convention Center, which opened its doors in 2011, was nearly 12 years in the making, says Thompson. It features 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and a copper exterior with a no-maintenance patina, just one of the convention center’s design aspects that led to LEED certification.
"The convention center is definitely a departure from the traditional concept of a center. We really wanted to create a new niche that would draw meetings and events," says Thompson, a missive that required marketing plans crafted long before the first meeting was ever booked. "Opening the building on one of the skinniest shoestring budgets you could imagine is definitely one of my proudest moments at the bureau. We really had to rely on the strength of messaging, using every angle of the project from architecture to events."
Today, just as the Irving Convention Center marks its two-year anniversary, its booking pace is well ahead of the curve. It’s growth Thompson sees firsthand from his office at the heart of the bustling center-and growth he continues to promote as a member of the Americas Board of Directors for the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), where he currently serves as vice-chair of the executive committee.
Thompson won’t relinquish his self-titled position as the convention center’s biggest fan anytime soon. It is, he contends, much more fun than construction work.