Former New Orleans Convention Center Chief Dies

Longtime tourism industry executive Ray Liuzza, former chief executive of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, died on Dec. 24 at the age of 83, the convention center reported last month.

Liuzza, who suffered from mantle cell lymphoma, is the only person in history to serve as both the unpaid president of the board that oversees the convention center and its paid chief executive.

"Ray Liuzza is legendary for establishing New Orleans as a world-class destination with the creation of the convention center," said Bob Johnson, the convention center's current president and general manager. "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."

Born in the French Quarter in 1928, Liuzza began his career in advertising and public relations and founded his own PR firm, Ted Liuzza and Associates — named for his father, a longtime newspaperman — in 1958. In the 1970s, he became instrumental in obtaining passage of the state legislation that created the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority in 1978. The authority, of which he was named a member in 1981, constructed and then managed the convention center, which opened in 1984 as the Great Hall of the World's Fair.

In 1985, Liuzza was named president of the convention center authority, which in 1988 began construction on a major expansion that was completed in 1991 under Liuzza's direction.

From 1989 until 1991, 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," according to the convention center, which called its former leader "an extremely active and engaged tourism leader."

In fact, Liuzza 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, a board member for the World Trade Center and a co-founder of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. He also helped establish the school of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism at the University of New Orleans.

Liuzza is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren. Services were held on Dec. 31, 2011, in New Orleans.