by Jonathan Vatner | March 01, 2005

Dittie Guise
Dittie Guise

A  major effort by the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority has convinced Governor Edward G. Rendell to release the first $50 million in funding for a long-promised expansion, but much work remains before groundbreaking can occur.
    Last summer, the state approved $632 million for a 250,000-square-foot expansion to the PCC, but by the new year, funds had yet to appear. The reason: Rendell wasn’t sure management could oversee the expansion with efficiency.
    “We plan to become a first-class convention destination,” said a spokesperson for the governor, “so it’s crucially important we have a top-notch team managing the center.”
    To that end, the PCCA hired Dittie Guise last fall as chief operating officer. During her 11 years at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, most recently as general manager, Guise helped orchestrate two expansions.
    Then in January, the PCCA tapped SMG, the Philadelphia-based facilities management giant, to help oversee the expansion. This will be a consulting contract as opposed to a management contract, Guise stressed.
According to Michael Nutter, chairman of the PCCA board, “If we can benefit from SMG’s national expertise, we should take full advantage of that.”
    Thanks to the PCCA’s efforts, Governor Rendell approved in late January the first $50 million to begin site acquisition. The PCCA also must create detailed blueprints, including a financial plan. The bulk of the additional funds will be approved when gaming revenue from recently legalized slot machines is collected, beginning in 2006. December 2008 is the target for ribbon-cutting.
    As to the length of time it took for the funding to come through, Nutter is forgiving. “Projects like these take a little while to work through some of the mechanics,” he said.