Business View Magazine | May 2019

64 BUSINESS VIEW MAGAZINE MAY 2019 AT A GLANCE THE RP FUNDING CENTER WHAT: A convention and entertainment complex WHERE: Lakeland, Florida WEBSITE: T he RP Funding Center is a convention and entertainment complex in Lakeland, Florida, comprising two exhibition halls, an arena, and a theater. Currently, it is home to the Florida Tropics SC of the Major Arena Soccer League and the Lakeland Magic, the Orlando Magic’s affiliate in the NBA G League. According to Executive Director, Tony Camarillo, the idea of a convention center in Lakeland had been talked about since the 1960s, and construction actually began in 1972 and completed two years later. “At that juncture, the building was titled the Lakeland Civic Center,” he recounts. “At the time, it was sort of an anomaly; a one-of-a-kind facility in Central Florida. It became a mecca for music and entertainment for quite a few years through the ‘70s and ‘80s – mostly rock ‘n’ roll. People like Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, U2, Bruce Springsteen, to name a few, played there.” “The name changed to the Lakeland Center in 1994, when we pretty much doubled the size of the building,” Camarillo continues. “Sikes Hall doubled in size; a second Exhibit Hall was added, as well as renovations to the Youkey Theatre and Jenkins Arena. Every space received an upgrade with this $20 million expansion.” The City of Lakeland sits midway between Orlando to the east and Tampa to the west, and over the last few decades both of those cities have built and expanded large convention centers that began to compete vigorously with the Lakeland Center for business. But Camarillo stresses that the Center has several competitive advantages. First of all, there’s the new name. “In May 2017, we became the RP Funding Center,” he explains. “It’s a revenue driver for us to the tune of about $150,000 a year, and it also brings us a lot of exposure. RP Funding is a mortgage and real estate company that operates mostly out of Central Florida; their advertising is wide-ranging and we saw it as a great opportunity to build a brand, here. Second, in addition to great customer service, the Center has a great food service team, here. People love the food,” Camarillo asserts. Finally, the Center is what he calls “that triple threat. We have the arena, we have the theater, and we have the meeting space, so our business has become more multi-faceted.” Right now, there’s momentum