Kentucky Venues CEO resigns

Jason Rittenberry | Courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair Board

For the second time in less than two years, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is in need of a new president and CEO to oversee operations at the Kentucky Exposition Center and the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Kentucky Venues president and CEO Jason Rittenberry has resigned, confirmed Laura Brooks, executive director of communications for the tourism cabinet. She said no decisions have been made about finding Rittenberry’s successor and it’s unclear when any decision will be made.

Through Dec. 31, Rittenberry will act as a consultant for Kentucky Venues, Brooks said, while Dr. Mark Lynn, chairman of the Kentucky Venues’ board, “will be on hand a couple of hours each day” to help manage day-to-day operations.

Rittenberry cited similar reasons for leaving to those of his predecessor Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe. Rippetoe served as president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board (now Kentucky Venues) for three years and left in 2016 for a job with the San Diego Convention Center. In a news release at the time, he said he was making the move to be closer to his children and grandchildren.

In his resignation letter, Rittenberry thanked the board for the opportunity but stated that he wanted to spend more time with his children, according to WDRB News. Insider Louisville has requested a copy of the letter from the state.

“Throughout the past year, it has become very clear that the responsibilities of this position require significant presence that puts job first and family second,” Rittenberry wrote in the letter addressed to the Kentucky State Fair Board. “As you know, I have two young children in Nashville and my time with them has been increasingly limited. This past month with the State Fair, I became even more aware of the requirements of this role. My first priority is to be a very active and present parent to my son and daughter.”

Rittenberry started in the position in last November, and during his brief tenure, he made a couple of big changes. The Kentucky State Fair Board was rebranded Kentucky Venues, and the state fair got a new logo, its first mobile application and express lanes to keep traffic into the fairgrounds moving. The organization also started looking into corporate sponsorships that could bring new revenue.

Per his contract, Rittenberry’s base salary was $300,000, with a possible $30,000 in annual incentive pay. He also received up to $50,000 annually in travel expenses, a work cellphone and access to a shared fleet vehicle.

Insider asked if Rittenberry’s compensation would change now that he is serving in an consulting capacity but did not immediately hear back from the tourism cabinet.

When Rittenberry first took over, he talked about the role that public-private partnerships would play in the development of new amenities in and around the Kentucky Exposition Center. At the time, he suggested that such partnerships could bring a hotel or agribusiness center to the area.

Currently, the state and Kentucky Venues are awaiting on responses to its request for proposals to build a “sports entertainment center” at the the Kentucky Exposition Center.