The city prepares the reopening of the convention center


The City of Roswell is hiring management staff for the Roswell Convention Center, 912 N. Main St., as it plans to have a smooth opening in November for the facility. The city will manage the operations of the center itself rather than outsourcing its management. (Photo of daily recording file)

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The city is preparing to reopen the Roswell Convention Center for events this fall, taking over the management of the facility itself rather than contracting with a third party.

When city officials first publicly discussed reopening the convention center in May, they said they wanted to wait until hotel occupancy rates stabilized at around 75%. The convention center is funded by the 5% tourist tax and a fee of $ 2.50 per hotel room per day, and generates 75% enough revenue to run the convention center, the convention center said. City Manager Joe Neeb in May.

Hotel occupancy rates in July, which included the UFO festival, hit 62.2%, said Juanita Jennings, the city’s director of public affairs.

“We hadn’t been this high since pre-COVID,” Jennings said.

The average occupancy rate was around 47% in 2020, which did not provide enough revenue for the operations of the convention center.

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However, the city received the first half of its $ 11.7 million allocation from the US federal bailout law, and city staff recommended that $ 2 million be used to help with related expenses. tourism, including to compensate for the loss of income and subsidies from the convention center. to hotels to help increase occupancy rates.

The center was closed to public events in April and the city terminated its $ 8,000 per month contract with Spectra Venue Management to operate the convention center. A report from Spectra in February of this year showed that between March and December 2020, 42 events at the convention center were canceled or postponed, resulting in a loss of more than $ 244,000 in revenue.

The Pennsylvania-based company had managed the convention center since 2018, when the facility was undergoing a $ 6.3 million renovation and expansion.

In May, city officials presented a plan for the convention center to be managed in-house for about a year, and then assess whether it wanted to seek out an outside management company. Jennings said it would be discussed at some point by city administrators and Roswell City Council, but she is convinced that local management could be a good model.

“I think we have built a good base model and I have no doubts that our locals can really operate this facility with a high standard of excellent customer service,” she said.

Three weeks ago, the city hired a facilities operations manager, David Reed, for the convention center, Jennings said. Reed has experience operating facilities for the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

“He has a lot of experience in building management, and it’s a good thing for the facility here,” she said.

Reed has gone to great lengths to ensure that the kitchen is clean and that equipment such as ventilation hoods and fire extinguishers are up to code and have been inspected along with inventory.

Other work to prepare the convention center includes the building’s computer and communications network, Jennings said. The previous equipment worked on the Spectra network and servers.

“Our IT team, they’ve been out there this week working on setting up the computers, getting the phones back on,” Jennings said.

An offer has been made to a candidate for the chief job, Jennings said, and the city hopes to fill the convention center’s last executive position, a sales manager, by Nov. 1.

Once those positions are filled, the city will begin hiring the second tier of employees – those who set up and take down events and servers, she said.

“Our goal is to have a smooth opening in November and December, so guests of less than 120, 150 people. Then in January, once we have additional staff, like support staff, we will open up again to a larger type of events, ”she said.

“Anything over 120 people, we need to be fully staffed. For the next three months, our goal is to hire the waiters, the banquet captains. We have to hire the kitchen helper, housekeeping, that sort of thing, ”she said.

The city is now collecting information from those interested in renting space in the convention center.

“We have a lot of interest, which is really exciting. I think people are ready to come back and start having events again, ”she said.

A rental reservation request form for the convention center is available on the city’s website, and Jennings said staff will take care of these depending on when they are. will be submitted.

City / RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or [email protected]

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