Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

City manager considering outside hire for convention center


March 10, 2021

Ron Warnick

The Route 66 monument stands in front of the Tucumcari Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. Tucumcari's city manager said he was exploring the idea of having an outside manager book events at the venue and maintain it.

Tucumcari's city manager said he is exploring the idea of hiring an outside manager for the Tucumcari Convention Center to draw more events there and lower costs for the city.

City Manager Mark Martinez also detailed some other possible improvements to the facility during his report to the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board at its meeting Wednesday. Motel taxes are used for the convention center's upkeep, and the facility's refinanced debt will be paid off by June.

Martinez said a hired management group at the convention center would be responsible for bookings and maintaining the facility. He said Las Cruces has a similar arrangement with its convention center.

He said such an arrangement may save some money in the long term, as the city would not have to devote manpower to the facility. Martinez said he would want its management to draw more state agency events, including the New Mexico Municipal League, that would "put heads into beds" in the city's motels.

Board Chairman Larry Smith said he was open to Martinez's proposal.

"It would free up city resources for other things," Smith said.

Martinez said he would confer soon with city commissioners about the proposal.

In other convention center business, Martinez cautioned the board to be "cautious" with its spending once the loan is paid off this summer. He said money that would have been used for loan payments likely would need to be reallocated for several maintenance and improvement projects at the facility over a two-year period, including getting an updated quote to refurbish its floors.

Martinez said he planned to use $6,424 in lodgers tax executive funds to update the convention center's wireless internet system. He also said the center's projector and screen are "not great" and is considering replacing them with one or several smart TVs in the Liberty Room.

Board member Matt Bednorz said the WiFi upgrades are "a must," adding: "We've got to modernize that place."

In other business:

• Martinez said several parties have approached him about hosting "a decent-sized" outdoor music gathering this summer once health restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic loosen.

City liaison Todd Duplantis said he's heard word about a possible post-COVID concert on June 12 or perhaps the Fourth of July.

"If anyone needs to be rewarded, it's the community," he said about the possible concerts.

• Duplantis said because prospective visitors are calling his restaurants two months in advance to make sure they would be open, he surmised it would be a big summer for tourism in the area.

"It may be a record-breaking year, especially with people not willing to fly as much," he said.

• Smith said he recently received word from promoter Brian Whitcomb that Rockin' Route 66 was officially canceled this year due to uncertainty over the pandemic. Whitcomb had announced earlier this year the festival had been put "on hold."

Smith said Whitcomb remains enthusiastic about organizing such an event in 2022.

• Martinez said the city is spending about $2,000 for electrical upgrades at the historic railroad depot in anticipation of the "Bands of Enchantment" film crew using the facility for their music television series later this month. He said he also is seeking grant money for further renovations there.

Martinez said he's eyeing the depot as a possible rental venue for bands or gatherings.

He also said "Bands of Enchantment" would offer a private screening of its pilot episode on March 19 to city officials. The production company wants the city to cover some of the production costs of the second set of four more episodes.

• Connie Loveland, director of Tucumcari MainStreet and fiscal agent for the Tucumcari Talking Tour, said she would present a formal request at the board's April meeting for $500 to $1,000 to restore a former "Motel" neon sign that once was used in lodging establishments along Route 66 and U.S. 54. The Talking Tour spent only about $1,200 of its $2,000 of its allotted funds on another project.

• Loveland said she and other members of a rebranding committee are transferring information for a new edition of the city's visitor guide. She said it will be a 32-page publication with a removable map . The back side of the guide would include advertising.

Loveland said the guide would not only describe Tucumcari attractions, but side trips that include the Mesalands Scenic Byway.

• Loveland said she's working with New Mexico MainStreet on a social media marketing plan for the city that caters not only to tourists, but residents. She said it would be joint effort between the Tucumcari MainStreet, City of Tucumcari and VisitTucumcariNM.com accounts.

• Loveland said Tucumcari MainStreet and the Quay County Cooperative Extension Service will offer a "Developing a Marketing Plan" workshop and lab from Diane Villegas of Big Picture Marketing at 4 p.m. March 23. Registration is $10. Those interested should call the extension service at (575) 461-0562 or MainStreet at (575) 461-3701 to sign up.

• Loveland said it would host a series of small focus group meetings through Create Bridges, which collects data to develop tourism, retail and accommodations strategies. Each focus group meets for about 90 minutes. Time slots available are 2 p.m. March 22, 8:30 a.m. March 23, noon March 24, 7:30 a.m. March 26, 2 p.m. March 29, 8:30 a.m. March 30, noon March 31 and 7:30 a.m. April 2. Those who are interested can sign up at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0c4faeaf2fa3fbce9-create1.

• Rachelle Arias, the city's finance director, estimated the board has about $83,708 to spend on future projects, mostly because of money unspent due to canceled festivals.

Smith, long a proponent of using the money for longer-term projects such as additional signs to direct tourists, said: "We have a unique opportunity to do some good things."

Martinez cautioned against spending all the money because some would be needed to be reserved for 2022 festivals, and city budget talks would begin soon.

• Nikki Murray, the new director for the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce, said her office at 404 W. Route 66 Blvd. again has regular hours from 8:30 to 5 p.m.

• Smith said the wife of board vice chairman Mike Castelli recently died, and he wasn't sure whether Castelli would continue his duties, take a temporary leave or resign. Castelli has missed the board's last few meetings.

Smith said "we don't want to push him away" but saw the need to advertise Castelli's position to lure a possible alternate member. Smith said Castelli always could re-apply for the position later.

• During board comments, Bednorz floated an idea to offer a $50 coupon to truckers to stay in the city's motels instead of using Mountain Road's two truck stop parking lots to park and sleep. Bednorz noted for every $100 spent, an estimated $67 recirculates back into the community.

"It seems like there is a lot of money sitting out there," he said.

Smith said he liked the idea in theory but wanted to see whether it was financially viable.


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