As I reflect on these past almost four
years as president, I am reminded of how far we have come but yet still have a
ways to go in our efforts to improve tournament participation, and growing the
membership through bridge classes. When I became president in 2012 I was
confident we could achieve the goals I set when campaigning:
- One goal was to enable continuous education – While this must be a continuous work in
progress for all future administrations, we were able to set aside monies in
our budget for the past three years to aid and supplement ABA teachers in their
efforts teaching beginning bridge classes. Our Teacher Certification Program
also provides materials, guidance and funds to teachers for use in their
beginning bridge classes. With the cooperation of the ACBL we now have access
to reprinting articles by Lynn Berg “Upgrading Your Game”, tips for the Newer
Player, and “Ruling the Game” by Mike Flader who provides insights on the laws
and ethics of the game. Our Bulletin continues to be a learning tool with
informative articles from Buzz Graham, ABA Bridge Education chair, and with
contributions from some new bridge authors, Anderson Williams of Atlanta and
Morris Johnson of New York. Pro/Am games are being played nationwide and appear
on many Grade A and Sectional schedules as well as on the local level.
Mentor/Mentee games are also flourishing in some of our ABA cities.
- Another goal was to promote enjoyable environments – These past three years has seen our tournaments in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Atlantic City three of the most visited cities in the USA and I might add profitable to the ABA. Additionally we’ve had successful and profitable tournaments in highly populated areas of the ABA in St. Louis and Indianapolis both in driving distance to over 50% of the ABA. We have been able to keep room rates at attractive levels with Las Vegas below $40 and Atlantic City below $65 as an average. It has become almost impossible to keep rates under that magical $100 but we were able to do so for the 2015 summer in New Orleans with $99 at the Marriott on Canal Street at the beginning of the famous French Quarter and centrally located to all things New Orleans.
games are starting on time and running as efficiently as possible; so much
so that the evening game now starts at 7:30 PM. The use of the dealing
machine has eliminated players making hands which saves a lot of time
during the game. Our directing staff has been more efficient and with some
staffing adjustments, more effective. The Staff Development chair has held
numerous seminars and workshops at nationals and local tournaments which
has improved the directing core. Equity
in structuring games – We established the over 5,000 field which is now
used for championship pair events when possible. With our dwindling
membership participation at tournaments, it becomes difficult to separate
the playing fields and sometimes the fields must be combined and
stratified. New Player sections are being encouraged when possible.
- New sources of Energy – Through a joint venture with
the ACBL we established a school bridge program which included schools
from all across the country. In New York alone we had twenty-two (22)
schools with over 300 students participating at one time. The program
continues in our ABA Youth Program headed by Tolliver McKinney who also
has beginning bridge at Boys and Girls clubs in Memphis.
These are exciting times for the American
Bridge Association but let’s make no mistake, we are not the same organization
as we were in years past. Membership enrollment is down, national tournament
participation is low and local clubs, Grade A and Sectional games are suffering
as players are not traveling as much in the past. WHY? High airfares and the
hassle of air travel, hotel room cost and the overall high cost of attending
tournaments. During these three years of hotel negotiations I’ve seen a change
in the way hotels assess the business of conventions. They now want and are
getting payment for their ballrooms or as they say, “the ABA doesn’t fit our
function space to food & beverage ratio, catering pricing budget and
guestroom rate budgets are all too low …” meaning they are asking for much
higher room rates and in some cases they have asked for guarantees of food and
beverages of $80,000; one hotel asked for $120,000 over the ten day summer national.
2016 spring we are going to the Rosen
Plaza in Orlando, FL at $105 and the summer to the Marriott in Arlington, VA
(Wash. D.C.) at $110 and this may be the end to rates in this range. We’ll keep
I am very proud of the accomplishments we
together have made during my four years as ABA president. None of what we
accomplished could have been possible without the fine core of committee chairs
that has given of their time and expertise. They work tirelessly to support the
many programs of the ABA.
Thank you again for your confidence in me.