Erie Events picks Gus Pine to succeed Casey Wells as executive director

Erie Events has selected its new executive director.

Gus Pine, the Bayfront Convention Center’s general manager, has been selected by the organization to succeed Casey Wells, who is retiring in January after a nearly 40-year career.

Saying goodbye:After nearly 40 years at the helm, Erie Events Executive Director Casey Wells is retiring

The promotion of Pine, 49, which is effective Jan. 30, was unanimously approved during a special meeting of the Erie County Convention Center Authority’s board of directors on Monday morning. Wells recommended Pine as his successor.

The board, which oversees Erie Events, held its meeting/vote via videoconference.

Pine has managed the Convention Center since November 2016.

This is a Sept. 22, 2017 file photo of Gus Pine, then-general manager of the Bayfront Convention Center. Pine was named executive director of Erie Events on Dec. 5, 2022.
This is a Sept. 22, 2017 file photo of Gus Pine, then-general manager of the Bayfront Convention Center. Pine was named executive director of Erie Events on Dec. 5, 2022.

“In a word, I would say I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Pine said. “I know that for a while the board has asked Casey to start thinking about what the future would look like in terms of leadership of the organization, and I knew this could be an opportunity. And it’s a great opportunity.

“Our job here is to improve the quality of life for people in (the Erie region) through entertainment,” Pine said. “And my job is to give the staff here the tools to do their jobs effectively and to lead the organization.”

Pine will earn $175,000 annually as executive director, according to the organization. Wells earns $197,770 a year.

"Our objective six years ago when conducting a national search to fill the Convention Center general manager position was also to identify a candidate who could someday assume the executive director role," said Gwen White, the Convention Center Authority's board chairwoman.

"The board has been pleased with the consistent success and improvements we have seen at the Convention Center and Mr. Wells provided a compelling argument recommending Mr. Pine as his successor," White said.

2017 look back:A 50-photo look at the 10th anniversary of the Bayfront Convention Center

Bayfront Convention Center General Manager Gus Pine, at left, has been selected to succeed Erie Events Executive Director Casey Wells, right, when Wells retires in January.
Bayfront Convention Center General Manager Gus Pine, at left, has been selected to succeed Erie Events Executive Director Casey Wells, right, when Wells retires in January.

'He's just a sharp guy'

A native of Syracuse, New York, Pine is a hospitality industry veteran, having previously served as general manager of the Radisson Hotel and vice president of convention sales and services for the Lansing Center, both located in Lansing, Mich.

At the Convention Center, Pine oversaw all aspects of its operation — including marketing, sales, finance, bookings, daily operations, food and beverage, information systems, personnel and contracted services — and reported directly to Wells, who recommended him for the job.

During his career, Wells managed many of the Erie region’s top arts, entertainment and sports venues.

Erie Events operates the Bayfront Convention Center, Warner Theatre, Erie Insurance Arena and UPMC Park. The organization also oversees two waterfront hotels connected to the convention center: the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel on West Dobbins Landing and the Courtyard Erie Bayfront Hotel, located on the Sassafras Street Pier.

“He has the education, the experience and the leadership skills and ability to lead this organization,” Wells said of Pine, who graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

“He’s just a sharp guy with great intuition," Wells said. "Gus is able to lead people effectively, professionally and fairly.  He’s a well-balanced individual and I’m confident he will do a great job.”

Pine, who lives in Fairview Township, is married with two teenage daughters.

Wells, 66, informed the Convention Center Authority’s board in September that he intends to retire sometime in January.

He has been with the organization for 39 years.

Wells started in 1983 as operations manager of the then-new Erie Civic Center, now known as Erie Insurance Arena. He was named executive director of the Convention Center Authority in 1992.

The organization was known as the Erie County Convention Center Authority until it was rebranded as Erie Events in 2015. Wells, a Penn State University graduate, also worked as general manager of the now-defunct Erie County Fieldhouse for four years starting in 1979.

Erie Events moving forward in 'a healthy position'

During his tenure with the Convention Center Authority/Erie Events, Wells oversaw the development of a number of expansive, multimillion-dollar projects at the organization that helped reshape downtown Erie and its waterfront and bolstered the region’s cultural/entertainment offerings for concerts, plays, sporting events, conventions/meetings and various other types of performances and large gatherings.

Those projects include:

●The $100 million-plus convention center complex, which features the $44 million, 145,000-square-foot convention center as its centerpiece and was the largest public-money project in Erie County’s history. The convention center opened in 2007.

From background left, the Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront hotel, the Bayfront Convention Center and the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel are shown just west of State Street, near Presque Isle Bay.
From background left, the Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront hotel, the Bayfront Convention Center and the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel are shown just west of State Street, near Presque Isle Bay.

The complex, heavily financed by state funding, also includes the 200-room Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel, which opened in 2008, and the 192-room Courtyard by Marriott Erie Bayfront Hotel, which debuted in 2016.

●More than $32 million worth of extensive renovations to the Warner Theatre, over multiple years, including the final, $27 million phase completed earlier this year.

'A beautiful place': Take a closer look at the renovations of the iconic Warner Theatre

●The $45 million renovation of the former Tullio Arena, now known as Erie Insurance Arena. The work was completed in 2013.

Erie Insurance Arena:Naming rights deal struck

●The 1995 construction of what was first known as Jerry Uht Park, now known as UPMC Park. The downtown baseball stadium is home of the Erie SeaWolves, the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, and has seen roughly $20 million worth of renovations since it opened.

New clubhouse completes renovations:UPMC Park’s upgrades

Fans stand for the national anthem as the Erie SeaWolves host the Reading Fightin' Phils at UPMC Park on July 26.
Fans stand for the national anthem as the Erie SeaWolves host the Reading Fightin' Phils at UPMC Park on July 26.

●Nearly 4,000 feet of public walkways, featuring metal benches, fishing pods, landscaping and lighting, installed by Erie Events near the convention center as part of $7 million worth of environmental remediation work at the 12½-acre site that once housed GAF Materials Corp.  Erie Events, which wants to create a mixed-use development at the former GAF property that includes ample public access and generates property taxes, also constructed a parking garage on the site that services the Courtyard hotel and includes the Bay House & Pier 6 restaurants.

●Continuing plans to develop a year-round, multimillion-dollar indoor market house on the city's west bayfront, near the former GAF property and the Bayfront Parkway.

Bayfront market house:Here's what it could look like

“Casey has left this organization in such a healthy position,” Pine said. “And this city is lucky to have someone like him.  He’s a guy who could have gone anywhere.  He could be running an NFL stadium for example, doing whatever he wanted. But he chose to stay here and was the lynchpin for everything that has been accomplished over the last several decades by this organization.”

Wells said he will "be around until the end of January," helping Pine transition into the executive director's post.

"I'm here for whatever they need," Wells said.

Contact Kevin Flowers at kflowers@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie Events' new director: Gus Pine to replace Casey Wells