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New civic center management under review; City leaders hopeful expanded building will lure new conventions

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Construction on the Roswell Convention & Civic Center continues, and Roswell city councilors discussed the scope of the project Monday, including management operations. City leaders are considering turning over management of the civic center to a private firm to boost revenues after a significant expansion of the center is completed next year.

The civic center is closed currently, and is expected to re-open in July, after an extensive remodeling and 15,000-square-foot addition on the north side of the building.

The City Council’s Legal Committee met Monday to consider language to include in requests for proposals for the management, sales and operation of the civic center. The city will need to make a decision to issue requests for proposals before August, which will allow the event manager to hire staff and catering for scheduled events. The first event at the new civic center is for New Mexico Municipal League in August.

The city has been managing the convention center.

“One of the requests was can we operate more like a business, rather than a city department, and so this was our response, was to do an RFP to discover if there is somebody who can come in an operate that more efficiently than we were operating as a department,” said city manager Joe Neeb.

“Are we not satisfied with how the civic center had been run at this time?” asked City Councilor Juan Oropesa. Oropesa also pushed that testing the waters allows for the RFP and for a city employee to rise to the occasion.

The RFP will be open to proposals outside of Roswell.

“I think we need new fresh blood again,” said City Councilor Jeanine Corn Best.

“We are going to have a new facility, a bigger facility,” said city councilor Barry Foster. “And one way or another, we aren’t going to be able to say we’ve only brought in this much, but we are allowing for more than what we had in the past. So that is what we have to take into consideration.”

Neeb said city public affairs officials are currently scheduling activities after August.

“We scheduled out all of the regular events in the convention center already up through December to give us time because everybody wants to reserve their space a year in advance, so that’s all going through that,” Neeb said. “We need to go through the RFP to see if there is a value to this before we start looking into rehiring the contracted work.”

“We looked at civic centers all over the U.S. and we only found one was making profit. I want to say it was in Miami, Florida,” Perry said. “We’ve got to be able to ensure that we can take care of the building after.

“The new management should be qualified to search for conventions and invite more to come to Roswell.”

Perry also said Hobbs has tried to bring oil conventions to its civic center, but does not have enough hotels to host visitors.

No action was taken Monday, so the RFP, contracted workers, and the city department are still in consideration.

City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.