By Maureen Werther
Mark Baker traveled from his home state of Wisconsin in 1983 to help break ground at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The center opened one year later and now, 33 years later, Baker is retiring as president and executive director, a role he has held during his entire tenure there.
Under his stewardship, and with the help and support of the Saratoga City Center Authority and the city of Saratoga Springs, the center has expanded to offer more than 32,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and reached an all-time high benchmark of 310 days of use in 2016.
“We are so fortunate to be in the city of Saratoga Springs, which is nationally recognized,” said Baker.
He added that the City Center and the adjoining 242-room Saratoga Hilton have become a venue for repeat business from many companies and professional organizations, such as the New York State Trade Association and others. According to Baker, the center enjoys a return rate of 73 percent, which means a high percentage of businesses and groups repeatedly return to the center for their meetings and conventions.
During Baker’s tenure, the City Center has not only grown in size, it has also fulfilled its goal of creating a year-round venue for businesses, organizations, associations and other visitors to Saratoga Springs. He referred to the center as the “little engine that keeps chugging along.”
He noted that Saratoga Springs now has a vibrant high occupancy rate during the peak meeting months of October through March. He credits the ongoing success to “incredible partners in the hospitality community, including the convention bureau, hotels, and the local and regional chambers of commerce.”
When he retires at the end of December, Baker will remain temporarily in his position with the City Center Authority as it continues construction of a parking facility that will be built behind the center.
As a Wisconsin native, Baker didn’t know much at all about Saratoga Springs or the surrounding region when he first arrived, but he and his family “fell in love with it and were embraced by the community.”
After retirement, Baker and his family will remain in the community. He plans to enjoy activities with his family and to do some traveling with his wife. “But, Saratoga Springs is home to us,” said Baker, whose children and grandchildren also live locally.