District Director Report
By Bob Heller, firstname.lastname@example.org
The ACBL on July 1 had its first changing of the guard in almost six years, when Bahar Gidwani became Chief Executive Officer.
Bahar was hired on May 20, when the Board of Directors met in Chicago to see and listen to his presentation and question Bahar on any issue. Of 25 District Directors, 20 were on hand, two attended via Skype and three could not participate.
The top candidate had been interviewed by the 8-person CEO Search Committee, headed by Jay Whipple of Florida, and Bahar was its unanimous recommendation to the board.
Everyone can read about Bahar’s background and plans for the league on-line and in the upcoming monthly Bulletin, so there is no need to repeat that here.
A quick personal view: Members will be impressed. Bahar brings a sense of excitement along with the realization that our present way of doing business must change. The Board itself will need to step up and play a role in that.
One of the good guys.
Bahar is hired because of the resignation of Robert Hartman, who replaced Jay Baum as CEO in October 2011. Robert has taken over a key position in his family food manufacturing and distribution business.
Robert had his share of critics during his tenure, and even his most ardent supporters couldn’t defend the technology debacle of three years ago. With the exception of that period, the board, as a whole, was pleased with Robert’s leadership.
Folks in District 7 will remember Robert as one of the good guys and a consummate “people person.” He likely attended more events in our district than in any other—to a large degree, because we invited him. Unlike some districts, our Board seemed to want to hear from the CEO, to be “plugged in,” and that relationship benefitted both D7 and the ACBL.
Robert missed only one Gatlinburg tournament during his tenure, and he always acknowledged that it “obviously is more than just another regional.” Being a part of Gatlinburg likely brought Robert closer to the impact of the wildfires that swept through the area last fall, and he waived all ACBL fees associated with a fundraising STaC last December.
When our District board was having a crisis of sorts over its split with District 6 and the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference, Robert thought he could help and interrupted a weekend in New Orleans to fly to Savannah, so he could attend two meetings at Hilton Head Island.
He visited The Bridge Club of Atlanta during a promotional trip for The Longest Day two years ago, and the club, owned by Sam Marks, was second among all of ACBL-land in fundraising last year. (Robert since has played with some of the top workers and contributors from that club as a “thank you.”)
Robert also was guest at the district’s top event of the year, our Goodwill banquet and celebration, four years ago in Greenville. When asked to return this June to the same site for the same reason, it was a real stretch for his schedule, because his hours had been reduced. Robert obviously had no obligation. But he agreed to make Greenville his final regional visit as CEO and the Goodwill celebration his final function.
Speaking for our District, we thank you, Robert.
NABC Swan song.
Board members and ACBL management alike heard strong and steady criticism about the venue for the Fall 2016 NABC, the Swan Hotel at DisneyWorld near Orlando. Anyone who was there knows the litany of complaints: Overpriced food, poor parking situation, mold or mildew in some rooms, plus all of the little stuff one usually hears.
The complaints were almost without precedent—or at least that was the thinking—and it triggered a reaction that was without precedent. We voted to get out of the contract that had us hosting the Fall 2023 NABC at the same venue—but for a room rate of at least $40 more. (This was done in Executive Committee about a month after the Kansas City meetings.)
The penalty for breaking the contract was negotiated down to a reasonable $80,000 — and I am among a large majority of board members who feels it was the right thing to do. Last fall’s tournament was one of the bigger NABC disappointments in a long time, mainly because local and area players did not support it. (Too much traffic, and with parking on top of the entry fees and high food prices, simply too expensive, we heard.)
Those issues cannot possibly be better six years later. We also benefitted from using the “good half” of the contract. Concessions were made in the 2016 contract—including a lower room rate—to attract us to the 2023 date, which we will not be using.
Robots come to the NABC.
There was quite a reaction after the league’s Web site announced, “Win an NABC title in your pajamas.” Playing with robots, no less.
As I’ve tried to explain to many people, there is a difference between marketing and hype, and the real world. The ACBL, in cooperation with BBO, is running a four-session on-line Individual championship during the Toronto NABCs. So, in theory, and by a stretch of the internet, one can “attend” the Toronto NABCs by participating in this experimental event July 23-26.
All of the details can be found via acbl.org.
To answer some of the oft-repeated questions:
- In no way is this really an NABC championship. It awards masterpoints at about the same level as Non-LM or perhaps 0-2500 competitions on the national level. The masterpoints are only one-third gold (maximum 16) and two-thirds red. No platinum.
- This is a different kind of game. Bridge is played, but it is you, one individual, with a robot partner and two robot opponents. You cannot blame any bad boards on a human partner.
- Yes, believe on-line masterpoints should be different from face-to-face masterpoints. That does not mean, however, that I am against this kind of event, which offers a meager one-time masterpoint award and has the potential to provide a lot of fun and entertainment for members (especially those who cannot make it to Toronto) as well as a nice chunk of revenue for the league.
Where have all the people gone?
Attendance at some of our most popular tournaments has been in a free fall this year. Only our membership can tell us why—so, please do not be shy.
It began over the winter holidays in Charleston (down 14% from two years ago) and continued three weeks later in Wilmington (down 16% from two years ago). Each hit an all-time low in table count.
Asheville enjoyed a reasonable turnout for its first regional in decades but was plagued by poor hotel services.
That was followed by Gatlinburg (down 4.65% and smallest since 2003) and Greenville (down 17.5% from a record high, and smallest since 2007).
Let’s hope that tournament players—along with an ACBL tournaments task force—can give us some answers that will help make our regionals more attractive again.