The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority (“Authority”), the governing board of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, has announced that Melvin Rodrigue, the Authority’s longest serving Chairman, is stepping down to focus on his duties as Chairman of the National Restaurant Association, as they weather the COVID-19 crisis. Rodrigue will remain as a Commissioner as a representative of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, replacing Steve Pettus. Governor John Bel Edwards named Walt Leger III, a former State representative and the current general counsel for New Orleans & Company, to succeed Rodrigue as Chairman of the Authority.
In his twelve years of service as Chairman of the Authority, Rodrigue has been at the forefront of discussions and major legislation changes that have allowed for increased investment in the city’s critical infrastructure, and led the Center through a period of extraordinary growth, spearheading a five-year $557 million comprehensive renovation and modernization plan now underway that will establish the Convention Center’s competitiveness for years to come.
Highlights of Rodrigue’s tenure as Chairman include:
- Adoption of a 5 year $557 million Capital Improvement Plan that will transform the building and Convention Center District
- Renovation of Hall A and creation of the Great Hall, and new sense of arrival at Julia Street
- Visioning of the upriver end of Convention Center Boulevard, to include a 1,200 room headquarters hotel, housing and dining, entertainment and retail establishments. Reimagining of Convention Center Boulevard and addition of the Transportation Center, along with contributions to enhancements of the traffic patterns in the downtown area
- Execution of a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with NOCHI and investment of twelve million dollars to promote workforce development within the hospitality industry in New Orleans
- Multiple CEAs with the City to promote the hospitality industry, enhancing public safety for visitors and residents, and contributing to critical city infrastructure totaling over $84M
- Twenty-eight million dollar capital contribution to the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board Infrastructure Trust Fund
- Significant improvements in Small and Emerging Business (SEB) engagement in convention center business opportunities
“Melvin’s visionary and selfless commitment to the success of not only the convention center but the entire hospitality industry in New Orleans is something that stands as a national model to be admired. Not only does our company offer him its gratitude, but the entire national tourism industry that has been positively affected by his leadership,” said Michael J. Sawaya, President and General Manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “We are delighted to welcome Walt Leger III as our new Chairman. His vast experience in state government and history of support for the tourism industry make him an ideal choice to lead our governing board” Sawaya added.
Melvin Rodrigue, Former Chairman and Current Commissioner, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority
Walt Leger, Newly Appointed Chairman of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority
About the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
With 1.1 million square feet of prime exhibit space, in an entirely contiguous hall, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center provides the largest single exhibit space in the country. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center features an award winning staff and first class amenities, and is the sixth largest convention center in the nation. A consistent Top 10 host of the largest conventions and tradeshows in the nation annually, the Convention Center is also one of the city’s “Top Workplaces.” A leading contributor to the city’s robust tourism economy, the Convention Center’s event activity has produced $90.1 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $5.7 billion in new tax revenue for state and local governments.
About the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority
The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority’s (Authority) exclusive mission is to finance, construct and operate facilities in order to attract and conduct conventions, trade shows and other events that support and expand the economy of both the State of Louisiana and New Orleans Region. The Authority is composed of a 13-member board of commissioners, ten appointed by the Governor of Louisiana, and three appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans. Since 1985, event activity at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has produced $90.1 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $5.7 billion in new tax revenue for state and local governments.