October 21

Julia Karrenbauer on GWCCA Event Development

GWCCA’s Director of Event Development, Julia Karrenbauer, participated in one of the International Convention Center Conference’s (ICCC) panels to discuss the GWCCA’s Event Development efforts and plans for the future.

Over the past few years, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority has also been self promoting events with the goal of showing people and promoters what their spaces are really capable of doing. The experimentation began with the 22-acre Centennial Olympic Park adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. For years the outdoor space was focused on community programming that didn’t necessarily operate for a profit. These events included a free Fourth of July fireworks show every year and a weekly free wine tasting event.


“But then we went to the model of how do we actually turn these into something that will turn a profit while also engaging the community and creating new events for the campus?” said Julia Karrenbauer, director, business development, Georgia World Congress Center Authority.


Karrenbauer and three other fulltime employees make up Authority Presents, which is a team created a year ago to focus solely on creating new revenue options and bringing new events to the campus. They act as an in-house DMC that handles any event where the campus takes on risk and other nontraditional business.


They created an event from the ground up called Party in the Park in order to show promoters the great things they could do in the outdoor space. It started as an incubation model in 2012 and 2013, which then led to a promoter bringing in Mumford and Sons for a show and then a five-year contract to host Sweetwater 420 Fest at the park.


“We really made a commitment a few years ago to activate Centennial Olympic Park and figure out how to generate revenue,” said Karrenbauer. “We lost money that first year with Party in the Park, and that goes back to that three-year commitment. But it also showed people what we were able to do. The second year we had a very successful Party in the Park that helped drive revenue. At a certain point we felt like people knew what we can do, and we wouldn’t have to self promote these events anymore but work with a promoter and it’s less risky for us.”

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