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Clovis Civic Center still losing money

File photo The Clovis Civic Center draws events the city couldn't have hosted before, but comes with an annual six-figure loss. Estimated losses for the past year are $284,000.

By other indications, there just haven’t been enough of them.

Built in 2006, the Civic Center has brought numerous events to the city it might not have been otherwise able to host, and it’s helped facilitate expanded events for nearby Clovis Community College.

However, those opportunities come at a price.

The events center staff is figuring a $284,000 loss for the year, about $72,000 more than earlier projections.

“We didn’t have any miracle events pop up this year that we did last year,” said Brock Neely, who took over as general manager 16 months ago.

In 2009, the center held the New Mexico Municipal League’s annual conference. There’s been no type of event like that this year, Neely said, because the civic center is no longer the new kid on the block.

Instead, the 30,000-square foot center gets mostly used for local meetings in its smaller rooms (72 percent of events), though one comedy show featured national talent Gabriel Iglesias.

“Those are easier to bring in than the big conferences,” said Neely, who noted work with Icon Entertainment for comedians and a boxing promoter out of Carlsbad. “They like to move around the state. We, being the new facility we were, we had quite a few of those wanting to see the facility.”

The center has actually had more events over the last year than planned — 257, ahead of projections of 207 — but most of them have been meetings or small weddings. While meetings generate almost three-fourths of the events, they only make up a third of the revenues.

Neely presented those numbers during Thursday’s Clovis city commission meeting, and said Friday that more events will be scheduled at the center thanks to the expansion of Clovis Community College’s Cultural Arts Series. The program is moving some events to the center, like a September concert with an Eagles cover band, because of the center’s larger capacity and ability to serve food and alcohol.

The general fund, however, will still take an annual hit to maintain the center and pay its 30 full time and part time employees.

“There are only about a handful of convention centers like us that break even or make a profit,” Neely said. “Going into this project, the city had anticipated a $350,000 loss per year. We’ve been able to stay under that.”

The center lost $189,091 in its first year.

City Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said when the center was built, losses were inevitable.

“We knew that going in,” Sandoval said. “It was a quality of life issue more than anything. We get a lot of stuff we’d have to go to Lubbock or Amarillo (to see in the past). It gives us opportunities for the Home and Garden show, things like that.”

Sandoval, however, said he was still disappointed to hear of the financial outlook, but noted the economic downturn has played a role. The wedding or quincenera still goes on, but the catered food gets trimmed.

“We’re having just as many weddings as we did before,” Sandoval said, “but people are going the least expensive route.”

Renting the center has a wide spectrum of costs, Neely said. A small group could host a meeting during the lunch hour for as little as $450, or an event like the Milk Lover’s Ball with catering for 500 would bring in $30,000. Those large events draw more booking fees, but also out-of-town visitors staying in hotels and shopping in Clovis stores.

“We’re hoping to get more conferences, of course,” Neely said. “The multiple-day events are always the best for us.”

The average vendor score for the center, Neely said, is 4.8 out of 5 stars — the best score for any center operated by Global Spectrum.

Sandoval said he’s always heard from residents that the Curry County Events Center, approved before he was elected to the county commission, and the Civic Center should have been combined into one larger project.

He said county’s building has consistently held rodeos, including the New Mexico High School Finals Rodeo for the second straight year. It also hosted the Clovis High School graduation for the first time, helping alleviate the crowd issues the event would have at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.

“We hear it quite a bit, but we don’t hear it as often as we were hearing it before,” Sandoval said. “I haven’t heard a negative comment about the graduation.”

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