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Adios, Dave

DaveO Dave O receives a mayoral proc from Dawn UIlrich

David Osterhout, known universally as simply Dave O, has retired after 27 years as the facility manager at one of America’s largest meeting places, Houston First’s George R. Brown Convention Center.

Osterhout, 69, retired on April 28 in a swanky sendoff joined by coworkers, clients, partners and many other friends. Among the tributes accorded Dave O was a mayor proclamation presented to him by Houston First president and CEO Dawn UIlrich.

“Dave O is irreplaceable. Someone will succeed him but nobody will replace him,” said Luther Villagomez, Houston First’s chief operating officer who opened the GRB in 1987 and has worked side-by-side with Osterhout since 1990.

“There is not one square inch, not one aspect of operation, in this convention center that Dave was not intimately familiar with,” Villagomez said. “He was the driving force in every capital project over the years and his input has been critical to the success of new construction projects and operational improvements.

“Dave is widely respected by colleagues in the industry, appreciated by our clients and admired by his coworkers. We will miss him.”


Enterprise Development
Strategic Planning

Comicpalooza, one of HFC/GHCVB’s joint venture events, landed back at the GRB May 12-14.  The ninth annual show has become a staple in our community, bringing together fans to celebrate pop culture in many forms, from literature, television and film to gaming and comics.  Last week's event was no different, with stars like Chuck Norris, Anthony Mackie, Felicia Day, Mike Colter and many others making appearances. Comicpalooza has become one of the largest annual shows at the GRB each year and returns on Memorial Day weekend in 2018.

Avenida Houston Shop

No updates this month.

Hilton Americas-Houston

The Hilton Americas-Houston enjoyed a busy April with occupancy topping 70 percent.

Avenida Houston

Bud’s BBQ in the GRB officially opened on Wednesday, May 10.

Cultural Development

While continuing to manage public art projects along the Avenida, Cultural Program manager Christine West has been taking Houston First’s mission into the community. Recently she juried the Sister Cities of Houston Young Artists Showcase along with fellow jurors Susan Young and Ann Shaw. They selected one work (from 14 submissions) to represent Houston at the national competition. As an ex-officio board member of the Houston Arts Foundation, West was invited to attend the foundation's board retreat to solidify the organization’s mission, programs and activities. She also gave a walking tour of the Avenida Plaza, GRB and the new works of public art to a group 30 members the Friends of Margolis Gallery at Congregation Beth Israel.


Cultural Facilities
Jones Hall

Jones Hall hosted 19 events in April for attendance totaling 25,497.  Patrons explored Mars, discovered the Pines of Rome, laughed with Dr. Seuss, spied with James Bond, and enjoyed the eating science with Alton Brown.

Jones Plaza hosted three events: the Lebanese Festival, World Culture Summit, and Xena SBS.  Attendance was over 7,000 at these events.

Wortham Theater Center

For April, a total of 15,275 patrons enjoyed 25 various events at Wortham Center.

With the exciting theme of Carnevale di Venezia, the Houston Grand Opera Ball was a grand success.
Patrons enjoy the annual Dance Salad Festival performances.  Dancers and musicians from all over the world perform with this dance company.

Several thousand guests had fun on Ray C. Fish Plaza, just outside Wortham's front door, while attending the 38th annual Bunnies on the Bayou event.

Sales and Marketing

The Theater District sales team reports the following shows were booked since the last report:

Texas Greek Picnic – August 5, 2017, Jones Plaza
South East Texas Damage Prevention: 811 Day Block Party – August 11, Jones Plaza
Houston Symphony: October Rehearsals & Performances – October 1-30, Jones Hall
Houston Symphony: November Rehearsals & Performances – November 6-30, Jones Hall
Brilliant Lecture Series: An Evening with Sally Field – October 26, Wortham Center

Tickets for the following shows have gone on sale since the last report:

Dr. Cesar Lozano – July 7, Wortham Center
An Evening with Sally Field – October 26, Wortham Center

Miller Outdoor Theatre

No updates this month.

Theater District Parking

The installation of an enhanced sign package has been installed in all three garages in the underground complex.

During the first quarter of the year,  the Theater District shuttle service transported 25,763 city employees to work sites of 611 Walker, Central Library, Houston Permitting Center and 1400 Lubbock  from remote Lots C and H.

The Theater District garage now has in place a fully operational Nissan fast charger for electric vehicles. It  is free to customers.

Talento Bilingue

Movies made in the Houston area by Hispanic Producers from various Latin countries are holding their Movie Premieres at TBH.  The most recent was "Azul La Dulce Cara."

Council Member Robert Gallegos presented a proclamation to TBH proclaiming April 15 through May 15 as Tejano Month in Houston.


Convention Facilities
George R. Brown/Avenida Houston Plaza

The George R. Brown hosted the American Association of Petroleum Geologist, Anime Matsuri, ESRI Petroleum Users Group Conference, FIRST Robotic Championship, Entelec and the Lonestar Volleyball Regionals with a record April total attendance of 173,652.  In May, we welcome the Texas Medical Association, Image Expo, Comicpalooza and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

The GRB kicked off the long-awaited return of Party on the Plaza on Avenida Houston. Check out the full schedule and band videos at

The GRB is pleased to announce the additions of Len Dawson and Katelyn Orenchuk to the team. Len, who was involved in the 2003 expansion of the GRB while an employee of the Gilbane Building Company,  brings a lot of experience to his post at capital projects manager. Katelyn comes to us from the Texas Medical Center and will manage a variety of events as a convention services manager.



Fitness Connection's Amy Edmondson addresses HFC on healthy living.

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22 to educate and activate the environmental practices worldwide.   Houston First employees participated in Earth Week by being more sustainable in areas of eating healthy, taking alternative modes of transportation, exercising to improve their health by walking and eating more green, and living in a greener environment.

At the George R. Brown, we maintain a high standard in sustainability and continue to focus in the areas of recycling, waste reduction and diversion. The No. 1 priority is to educate employees on how to be more sustainable at work, how to be more sustainable at home, and how to be more sustainable everywhere.  
During the Earth Week Sustainability Lunch & Learn on April 20, Sustainability manager Wanda Adams arranged for employees to be addressed by Rice University Professor Lisa Lin, who spoke about sustainable modes of transportation, and Amy Edmondson with Fitness Connection, who talked about sustaining our health.

Avenida Parking

Houston First continues to improve the Avenida District garages.  After some delay on delivery, installation of new equipment for Avenida Central Garage began the week of May 8. Additionally, we are working on new way-finding signage for Avenida Houston.

In April, visitors, events and meetings at the GRB utilized 68,246 parking spaces: Avenida Central Garage:  18,618 cars; Avenida South Garage: 26,754 cars; Avenida North Garage: 15,695 cars; and Tundra Garage: 7,179 cars.

Additionally, for event drop-off and pick-up, FIRST Robotic utilized the south transit center. School Bus and FIRST Robotic also utilized the  north transit  center.



Sales' citywide team generated over 80,000 possible room nights with conferences utilizing one of our  convention facilities while the non-citywide team added over 107,000 tentative room nights for conventions for future years.

Additionally, members of the sales team attended the Professional Convention Management Association Partnership Summit featuring meeting executives who plan significant meetings in the corporate, association and specialty markets.  Also, we hosted over 60 national association executives at our annual Washington D.C. client event promoting Houston as a premier convention and meeting destination.

Client Services

Client Services conducted nine planning site visits for upcoming conventions: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (July 2018), Rockwell Automation (November 2017), ANCC Magnet Conference (October 2017), Experient E4 (July/August 2017), Texas High School Coaches Association (July 2017), Fastsigns International (January 2018), International Facility Management Association (October 2017), SNAME Maritime Convention (October 2017) and World of Asphalt (March 2018).

Event Services

Events Services assisted with five events in April: Texas Independence Day Celebration and customer event in Washington D.C. on April 12, Lucky Strike Member to Member Connection on April 19, FIRST Robotics sponsor breakfast on April 21, Hotel ROI Houston on April 24 and Dave Osterhout’s retirement party on April 27.

Corporate Culture

Corporate Culture assisted three events in April: an HFC all-employee event with guest speaker Kirbyjon Caldwell on April 3, the Art Car Sneak Peak on April 6 and the Sustainability Lunch and Learn on April 30.

General Counsel

No updates this month



Some of the packages that can be found at Houston Marketplace.

Tourism has launched the first phase of the Houston Marketplace, a one-stop-shop for visitors and locals to explore our city. This program includes a collection of attractions and events that allows buyers to build their own Houston experience by choosing one experience or mix and match from a curated selection. Passes are delivered right to the buyer’s phone or email inbox. Partners currently signed include: B-Cycle, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Chinese Community Center, Houston City Tours and MSR Houston, among others.  GHCVB members interested in learning more and/or to participate in the program can also find information on how to start the process. Learn more at

The Tourism team hosted a TV production from Australia’s most popular morning show “Sunrise” that broadcast the sports segment live from Buffalo Bayou Park. We also supported a press visit by Globetrotter TV from the UK, TV Azteca Monterrey, and media groups from France, Germany and Mexico.

International media value for March: $815,571; Total worldwide impressions: 46,800,000.


Membership held its bi-monthly spotlight and coffee services connection with five transportation companies meeting with Client Services staff to spotlight their services and discuss client needs. In addition, the spring Member-to-Member Connection was held at Lucky Strike Houston with 70 members attending the bowling-themed event.

New members added in April were ShutterBooth Houston, Brooklyn Meatball Company, Brasserie du Parc's, Rockabye Baby Rentals, Speedsportz Racing Park @ Grand Texas, and Le Colonial.

Corporate Affairs

The Community Relations team  participated in the following community investment events in April: Society for Performing Arts Gala, Young Audiences Gala, Houston Arts Alliance Gala, Houston Public Library Beyond the Page Luncheon, Asian Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston Luncheon, Houston Business Journal Landmark Awards, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon & Expo and American Leadership Forum Dinner.

Public Affairs

Public Affairs staff is monitoring 145 bills related to tourism, hotel occupancy tax, economic development and budget issues in the Texas Legislature. Lawmakers filed more than 6,000 bills in the regular legislative session, which ends May 29.  

Marketing and Communications

Comicpalooza coverage, particularly the announcement of Chuck Norris, has received a great deal of press, including nice mentions from the Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Houston Press and more.

The new Houston Bridges Project, creating colorful installations along the bridges crossing I-69 through Downtown and Midtown, received coverage from KPRC and KHOU. Houston First is steering this project.

KUHF interviewed Mike Waterman to discuss the Downtown hotel boom and its impact on our business.

In the leisure/destination area, the team worked with KEYE TV and KXAN in Austin on this segment showcasing Houston for summer travel.

Travel Weekly had this piece on the Houston vacation experience. Travel Weekly UK had this different take on the city for international travelers. And the Press and Journal, also from the UK, had this beautiful spread earlier this year.

The folks at MRV Buzz, a recreational vehicle publication, took a look at the unique cistern on Buffalo Bayou.

A piece from the Urban Land Institute, which tracts development trends, looks at Houston’s Upper Kirby District as a model.

Forbes calls out Houston as a model city for urban density.

Houston was named among top 15 cities for single men in

Corporate and Incentive Travel reported on our strong tourism numbers. Exhibitor Magazine also picked up on our visitor count for this report as well as the Houston Chronicle, Houston Business Journal and KUHF. Conventions South reported on our record sales year as well as the art infusion at the GRB.

Travel Market Report had this on the collaboration between Tourism and Mexico and how we’re flipping the rhetoric.

There’s been a good deal of coverage around LAUNCH including reports from Houstonia, KPRC’s Houston Life, and the Houston Chronicle.

Avenida’s Party on the Plaza has garnered buzz in the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, KPRC, and KRBE.

A great report in Smart Meetings on Houston is taking advantage of the remade convention campus and the post-Super Bowl glow. And Prevue meetings magazine also had a positive perspective on Houston as a meetings destination.

Dave O’s retirement after nearly three decades with the GRB was featured in this piece from Trade Show News Network.

We discussed the newly launched Visit Houston Marketplace that Tourism has spearheaded on Great Day Houston.

Houston First’s involvement in plans for more workforce housing near Downtown were included in this piece from the Chronicle.

Lastly, the team conducted seven interviews promoting Houston and hosted a group of seven journalists from national meetings trade publications covering Houston’s brand new Avenida Houston district.

In April, our network of websites generated 456,000 visits with a media value of $828,000.

Film Commission

In April, Houston hosted 25 film and video productions resulting in 87 filming days with direct expenditures of $1,862,000 and an economic impact of more than $5,586,000. These projects include:

Commercials: Adidas, Chivas Regal, AARP, Hyundai, Blue Wave Productions Law Firm, Cocoa Cola, Reliant Energy and  Bank of America.
Television Series/Cable Series: Seven Year Switch, Animal Emergency, Discovery Taking Fire, La Voz Kids, My 600 Lb. Life, VH1 and Texas Vets.
Short Film: Dream Catchers.

The Houston Film Commission attended and exhibited during AFCI Location Expo and Conference in Burbank, Calif., and sponsored the Film Texas Filmmakers Brunch during the Dallas International Film Festival.

Regional Product Development

Freeway corridor enhancements – Installations to enhance eight bridge fences over I-69 from Tuam Street to Bell Street is almost complete. The contractor expects completion at the end of May.The enhancements consist of weaving colorful strips of high-density vinyl into the existing chain link fences. The strips are pre-printed with color on both sides and depict pixelated images based on photographs taken by children.

Jones Plaza – The re-imagining of Jones Plaza continues with update meetings and workshops with stakeholders. The re-programming study is expected to be complete by the end of May, followed by a selection process for the architectural design.

A new attraction for Houston – AECOM is on board to complete the feasibility study. A working group has been formed and meetings with various leaders and existing attraction operators were held last week.

Potential public market – We continue to remain in the process of conducting an analysis of potential sites for the establishment of a public market that focuses on East Downtown.  

Airport corridor enhancements – Stakeholders are diligently working on beautification, enhanced maintenance standards, and design treatments for special areas such as underpasses.

Finance & Administration

F&A provided support for the Greater Houston Business Procurement Forum, Greater Houston Black Chamber Luncheon, Asian Chamber of Commerce Business Luncheon and Houston Hispanic Chambers Expo.

It also provided assistance to Adventus Technologies, APEX Consulting Group, B2Z Engineering, Brand IQ, DWG CPA, Garcia & Wright Consulting Engineers, HENECO Oil and Gas, Infodat International, Kelly Staffing, MBCO Engineering, OnTime BI, Optimum Consultancy Services, Signature Electric Services,  T&M Services, Hawkmorr Group, Spearhead Group, Voice Society, TPMG Construction, Baker-Calvin, Training and Leadership Consulting, V3Main Technologies and Security Professionals of Texas.

The full financial management and accountability report can be found here.

Information Technology

Installation of Unitrends Forever Cloud Disaster Recovery is on target for completion at the end of May. Review and testing of Unitrends to follow the initial installation with assistance from the vendor. The Unitrends appliance has been upgraded and maintenance on Unitrends Storage has been completed.