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Patrick Rice

Patrick Rice reflects on his life experiences from his Boise Centre office. Photo by Pete Grady Photography

The first taste Patrick Rice had of the service industry came when he was just 15, in the form of freshly backed biscuits and garden fresh produce from the kitchen of his grandmother’s cousin in Novia Scotia.

Rice still cares deeply about providing plates that are both beautiful and delicious, but his career has expanded dramatically. What started with washing dishes and catering turned into teaching aspirations, and then to hotel management. For most of the last two decades, Rice upped the ante on hospitality to serve at the helm of Boise Centre.

Boise Centre

The convention center, located in the heart of Boise’s downtown, is a public-private partnership funded by local tourism taxes and governed by the Greater Boise Auditorium District’s elected board of directors.

It has had its share of political drama over the years, with some industry heavyweights speaking out against taxation and the direction of the remodel. Through it all, however, Rice was able to maintain friendships and goodwill.

“Pat is an outstanding individual,” explains Chuck Everett, who found himself on the opposing side a few years back. “It’s only because of our friendship that we could take a step back and say, you know, you’re right. We don’t need to take this issue on a route that a lot of other people did, got angry or emotional about it.”

Building a team of excellence

Leading Boise Centre has been the capstone of Rice’s career, but his influence traces all the way back to his college days in Montana, when he sought a degree in teaching. His path took him in the direction of hospitality instead, but he has fulfilled the role of teacher and mentor in every job since then.

“I think the one thing that I appreciate the most about him is that he’s always believed in me and encouraged me to keep stretching and growing outside of my comfort zone,” explains Stacey Funk, who works as human resources director at the center. “He knew the right amount of pressure to push and just to keep encouraging me, because he saw potential in me that I never dreamed of in myself.”

Funk has worked with Rice at Boise Centre since he was brought on as project manager in 2001. Under his guidance, she has risen through the ranks to become an essential member for the team, Rice says.

In fact, several of the top leaders at Boise Centre have come up through the ranks, and the team has a very low turnover rate because of it, Rice says. Some even worked for Rice, left to pursue growth opportunities, and have since returned. Operations  Manager Nick Souba is one of the most prominent.

“You can tell Pat’s a servant leader,” says Souba, who left the Boise Centre for seven years for a job at the Boise Chamber of Commerce. “He truly listens to and cares about what you say.”

Rice praises his team at every opportunity, but he agrees that he is responsible for setting the standard of excellence.

Family and future

Rice is still the primary cook at home, and he and his wife Beth travel often to visit their two sons, Sean and Matthew. Both fly planes with the U.S. armed forces, and one is a flight instructor.

Rice hopes to retire within the next three to five years, he says. When he does, his legacy will live on not only in the Boise Centre and its impact on downtown, but also in the careers of the hundreds of men and women he has led and mentored during his career.

Culture is huge here, and that’s something I’ve found whether its the hotel business or this business, it’s all about culture. The expectation starts with me.

Career

Patrick Rice started his career working in kitchens, but told one of his first bosses in an interview that he wanted to take his job someday. He moved up the ranks in that company and then started working in hotels. He quickly gained more prestige and responsibility and started managing hotels, moving around the country to gain experience in bigger and more complicated properties. He left the hotel business in 2001 for Boise Centre, where he is currently the executive director.

Accomplishments

Graduated from Montana University

He earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics in 1981.

Spent 8 years as general manager of two full-service hotels

He took over at the Riverside hotel in Garden City and the Red Lion hotel in Boise in 1994.

Elected to public office

He was elected to the board of the Greater Boise Auditorium District.

Managed award-winning renovation and expansion at Boise Centre

After being hired as project manager in 2001 for the Boise Centre remodel, he was brought on as executive director.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect Rice’s graduation from Montana University.

About Rebecca Palmer