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Convention center close to opening

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Pictured is the Roswell Convention & Civic Center located at 912 N. Main St., which is nearing completion with a final inspection planned for this week. To the left is the existing structure and to the right is the 15,000-square-foot new addition. The expansion and remodel cost the city $7 million. (Alison Penn Photo)

City council, tourism council updated on progress of construction

General updates on the Roswell Convention & Civic Center (RCCC) were shared during the full city council meeting last week and with the Roswell Tourism Council on Monday.

On Thursday night, an update about the convention center was presented as an informational item at the monthly Roswell City Council meeting. Juanita Jennings, the city’s public affairs director, also shared updates at the Roswell Tourism Council meeting on Monday morning. She said everything is very close to being done.

The city had originally hoped to have the facility fully open by this past August for the New Mexico Municipal League’s annual conference and previously the opening date had been summer of this year. The conference took place in the existing portion of the facility, while some of the 15,000-square-foot new addition was still under construction.

Kevin Dillon, project and facilities director, said the Construction Industries Division’s (CID) final walkthrough is planned for Wednesday or Thursday, with Thursday the last day of the temporary certificate of occupancy. After that inspection, Jennings said the facility would be turned over to venue management company Spectra for management and operations. She also said her department is preparing to launch a new website for the RCCC, which will be user-friendly.

Dillon said there were “a few things to be touched up,” such as the edging around the metal roof. He said the outdoor area between the RCCC and the Roswell Museum and Art Center is irrigated and landscaped. On the inside of the new installation, Dillon said the dais is in progress. At the city’s last public forum, City Manager Joe Neeb said the first council meeting to be held at the RCCC is tentatively set for February.

Hiring and other efforts

Jennings said Spectra is increasing professionalism and the level of service for the convention center. Jennings said Spectra has booked 36 new events with 58 new event dates. She also said the 36 events were “events never had in Roswell before.” For example, she said Spectra has an automated software that allows event organizers to see the layout when the event is booked, which had previously been sketched by hand, Jennings said.

Councilor Jeanine Corn Best applauded Jennings, convention center General Manager Kenny Valenzuela and Finance Director Monica Garcia for hard work and said she was proud to “bring such professionalism to Roswell and show off our facility in such a wonderful manner.” Councilor Steve Henderson asked some questions about the roof and how the inventory of items such as forks, plates and chairs would be taken.

Jennings said five local residents out of the seven team members are full time, there are five locals in part-time local positions and Spectra is seeking up to 20 new employees.

Valenzuela said the event categories are conventions, consumer shows, meetings, special events and banquets that they will be analyzing. He said factors when considering events will be the size of event, setting up opportunities for additional revenue, and the timing of the event.

He said “the goal is capture events of the highest impact” during UFO Festival in July, and in December for holiday events — and that conventions tend to have the greatest impact. He said there will be more flexibility in September for events with budget limitations.

“Our approach focuses on maintaining all of the events, but guide them toward the appropriate times that will fit their needs and budgets while maximizing the impact of the facility,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela shared a case study of the Las Cruces Convention Center, where he worked before and which is also managed by Spectra. He said the facility opened in 2011, the subsidy was close to $400,000 and decreased to about $55,000 after eight years of business.

Fee schedule 

Jennings said a fee schedule was passed last January by the City Council. To dispel some rumors, she clarified that any up-charges would come from items or services the city has to acquire externally. The complete RCCC fee schedule can be viewed on the city’s website (roswell-nm.gov/1083/Plan-Your-Event).

“One of the things that we put in the contract is we still own pretty much everything — all of the assets are the city’s,” Jennings said on Monday. “One other thing that’s very important, so Spectra does not get any money other than their management fee that we pay them. So anytime somebody rents out the facility, it goes back into the city of Roswell’s operating account for the convention center. So, the only payment Spectra gets is $8,000 per month. That’s it …

“Last year, we were renting the convention center — or the year before when there wasn’t the construction — we were running $364,000 in the red. Our goal is to eliminate that red and try to at least break even, so our goal is not to make a profit, but to eliminate such a big difference in operating in the red.”

Jennings quelled another rumor, that Spectra was not allowing outside catering. Jennings said a chef was hired to provided food, beverage and concessions for the RCCC and will have menus to select for events that want food. Any catering company, restaurant or business that wants to have catering at the convention center can complete an application to do so, she said. In addition, she said something Spectra wants to offer is a 20 percent discounted rate for the rental fee if food and beverage is purchased in-house.

“One other thing I wanted to just be clear for the council, as well as the public, is that Spectra is not charging for chairs or tables or clean-up or set up individually,” Jennings said. “All of those costs are covered in the rental (fee) or the food if it is purchased from Spectra.”

Finances 

Finance Director Monica Garcia updated the council on debt service and said the city is projecting a $400,000 revenue increase from the five percent lodgers’ tax charged to local lodging businesses and the convention center “bed fee.” The bed fee is a daily $2.50 fee on hotel and motel room rentals in the city and is separate from the lodgers’ tax. She said the average yearly payment is $5,380 to debt service, which will mature in 2032. She explained this is payable only from convention center bed fees and five percent lodgers’ tax.

Garcia clarified that the lodgers’ tax can be used to supplement the payments to the debt service from the bed fee, which she doesn’t see happening. Mayor Dennis Kintigh asked for an income clarification because it appeared that the “revenue coming in on the convention center bed fee exceeds the debt service.” Garcia confirmed Kintigh’s assessment.

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