Mark Banta to retire as CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy in 2023
By Maria Saporta
The board of the Piedmont Park Conservancy announced that its president and CEO, Mark Banta, will retire in 2023 upon the selection of his successor and after a period of transition.
Exactly eight years ago, Banta was named as the CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, where he already had been serving as its chief operating officer. The Conservancy is a private organization that raises funds to maintain and improve the park through philanthropic contributions and facility rentals for weddings, parties and events. It does not, however, receive revenue from the major festivals held in the park each year.
In an interview on Friday, Banta said overseeing Piedmont Park has been the highlight of his career.
“Piedmont Park is truly our central park,” Banta said. “It is truly Atlanta’s green heart.”
During his tenure, park attendance has gone from 4 million a year to more than six million.
“It draws people from all over Atlanta,” he said. “It’s just an incredible resource for Atlanta.”
When Banta became CEO of the Conservancy in 2014, the organization was struggling, partly because of the after-effects of the Great Recession.
“I’m most proud of the stability of the organization,” Banta said. “When I came here, we were coming out of the recessions. We didn’t have good financial reserves, and there was deferred maintenance. I was able to stabilize the team and get us back on a strong financial footing.”
The Conservancy’s budget went from $2.7 million to $4.5 million, and it continued to do well during the pandemic because parks became places of refuge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just really grateful for leading the organization through some very difficult times,” said Banta, who looking forward to working with his successor.
But Banta’s work is not done. The Conservancy will be in negotiations with the City of Atlanta on the renewal of a five-year Memo of Understanding describing the roles both entities will share regarding the maintenance and management of Piedmont Park. A new MOU will go into effect in 2023.
The Conservancy’s board announced that it is launching a national search for a new president and CEO.
“The Piedmont Park Conservancy continues to be very grateful for Mark’s leadership,” said Ellen Sacchi, chair of the Conservancy’s board. “Mark has made a notable impact during his time of service, and I know we will all continue to see the significance of his work at Piedmont Park for years to come.”
The board also has hired the search firm of Atlanta-based BoardWalk Consulting to help it find a new CEO.
When Banta joined the Conservancy, he came with the experience of developing new parks.
“I’ve had four amazing careers,” said Banta, referring to his first job at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, where he worked for 12 years.
Banta is probably best known for being the general manager of Centennial Olympic Park from 1996 to 2012, where he oversaw a multitude of major events and festivals. He then left Atlanta to help in the building and opening of Klyde Warren Park in Dallas — serving as the president of a deck park that was built over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway.
“How many blessings and fun rodeos does one guy deserve?” Banta asked reflecting on his career. “I always said that Piedmont Park would be my final rodeo.”