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Ray Liuzza, former New Orleans Convention Center leader, dies at 83

Ray LiuzzaRay Liuzza, the New Orleans Convention Center’s stalwart leader who led the organization from its conception through its second major expansion, has died at age 83.

Liuzza, former president and managing partner of the International Hotel, and a public relations executive, championed the 1978 legislation that created the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, a body corporate and political subdivision of the State of Louisiana, whose mission was to explore the feasibility of building a convention center in New Orleans. In 1979, Liuzza was appointed to the Authority served as chairman of the Citizens Referendum Committee, whose efforts were instrumental in obtaining voter approval of a hotel/motel occupancy tax, which provided financial support for the construction of the convention center.

Through 1988, Liuzza held the positions of commissioner, chairman of the board and executive vice president of the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, and oversaw the construction of the original Convention Center, which opened in 1984 as the Great Hall of the World’s Fair, and its Phase II expansion, which doubled the Convention Center’s exhibit space and made it the third largest facility in America of its kind.

In 1989, after the departure of general manager Dan Saunders, Liuzza remarkably held dual positions of interim president/general manager of the New Orleans Convention Center and executive vice president of the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority until Jimmie Fore was brought on board as general manager in 1991.Ray Liuzza

Under Liuzza’s leadership, the New Orleans Convention Center was opened on time and within budget and sustained years of benchmark attendance growth.

“Ray Liuzza is legendary for establishing New Orleans as a world-class destination with the creation of the Convention Center,” said Bob Johnson, president/general manager of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “His years of dedicated service left the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with a legacy of success. He was beloved by the Convention Center employees and we are fortunate to have had his leadership over the years.”

Liuzza was also an extremely active and engaged tourism leader. He was a past chairman of the board and president of the New Orleans Hotel-Motel Association, a past director of the Louisiana Hotel-Motel Association, a former member of the Greater New Orleans Tourist and Convention Commission, served on the board of the World Trade Center and helped form the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. He also helped establish the school of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism at the University of New Orleans.

He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren. Services will be held on December 31, 2011, at Greenwood Funeral Home in New Orleans.

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