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CRVA exec to focus on NASCAR Hall

Tourism agency priority is to push NASCAR attendance, council told.

- sharrison@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

Charlotte's top tourism official said Monday he is working to fully integrate different parts of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, and said a top priority is to convince people attending conventions to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Tom Murray, who was hired as CRVA chief executive in December, gave a briefing to the Charlotte City Council about his reorganization of upper management. The biggest change is that former CEO Tim Newman is no longer with the organization.

Newman, who was demoted by the board after the council members questioned his management, had stayed with the CRVA as an executive in charge of sales. But he stepped down Friday.

The new CRVA will have six people working directly under Murray as part of an executive management team. Murray said he wants to have the different aspects of the CRVA - sales, marketing and management of city-owned venues - working together smoothly.

The CRVA was created in 2004 as a merger of Visit Charlotte and the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority.

"We found out there was a vision to merge the organizations, but we never completed the merger in the right way," Murray said. "We got stalled at the merger, and people were protecting their turf."

Murray said his next goal is to improve attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which lost $1.4 million in its first year. His goal is to have the racing museum break even financially or turn a profit, he said.

Murray said new lower ticket prices for local people have been successful, and that the hall may try to offer discounted tickets to convention attendees in the future. The CRVA has said it has struggled to convince convention attendees to visit the hall.

Murray also said Monday he "never considered" replacing current NASCAR hall Executive Director Winston Kelley. Kelley is now listed as a CRVA vice president in addition to heading the NASCAR hall. The other vice presidents are Ted Lewis (convention center); Bob Buchanan (human resources); Mike Crum (chief financial officer); Mike Butts (Visit Charlotte) and Gina Sheridan (marketing).

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who lobbied for a leadership change at the CRVA last summer, said his goal has been to showcase the city.

"Despite what others may have inferred, the intent on my part all along (is to show) the world the great community that Charlotte is," Foxx said.

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