Thursday, April 13, 2006

Convention Center Blues

  Las Cruces has no medium-sized venues for live music.  And for would-be concertgoers in Las Cruces, this problem is larger than they may realize.  While it’s been a problem for several years, it seems that we’re in no hurry to do anything about it. 

  As music director for Hot 103, I receive calls almost weekly from potential concert promoters who would like to bring more concerts to town.  Invariably, the conversation goes like this:

  Fast-Talking Promoter:  “Hey, look buddy, I’m really excited.  We’ve got this great show that we wanna bring to town.  It’s gonna be big; it’s gonna be huge!  Fans’ll love it.  Listeners will love it!  LAS CRUCES WILL LOVE IT!  All we need’s a venue…

  Me: “Well, um, how many people ya lookin’ to pull?”

  FTP: “Between 1,000 and 2,000.”

  Me:  “Hmm…Well, pick a date and start praying for good weather, because it will probably have to be an outdoor show.”

  I go on to explain the nature of our problem.  Hurricane Alley would be a good venue for a smaller show, but it only holds about 300.  The Pan Am Center would be a good venue for a larger show—between 7,000 and 8,000.  And there is virtually nothing in between.

  I say “virtually” because there are a few options, none of which are ideal.  Dickerson’s Event Center is an option, but because of the poor acoustics and less-than-ideal location, it’s better suited for wedding receptions and gun shows.  And there are various hotel ballrooms, but few can accommodate a large crowd and most are opposed to hosting a noisy concert that may run late into the evening.

  A week ago, the country band Cross Canadian Ragweed played a sold-out show at Hurricane Alley.  With a little advertising and a larger venue, they probably could’ve tripled or quadrupled ticket sales.  But there’s another side to that story.  Four years ago, LL Cool J came to the Pan-Am Center, and drew fewer than 1,000 people.  The promoter lost a ton of money on that show, which was better suited for a smaller venue.

  Which brings us to the idea of the proposed convention center.  Remember?  About a year ago, there was a lot of talk about it.  In fact, it seemed imminent.  It was going to be the best thing to happen to Las Cruces in years.  It was to revitalize the economy, generate tourism, and solve all of our problems.  What ever happened to that?

  I’m not in economic development, but it seems to me that a new convention center, located downtown, would be an enormous leap in the direction of solving two of the problems we are facing locally: the aforementioned, and the “downtown revitalization” issue.  Albuquerque’s downtown is constantly cited as an example of the proposed revitalization, and the city’s convention center—located in the heart of downtown and the venue for many concerts—played a big role it that. 

  Before the plan to revitalize downtown can move forward, we ought to revitalize the conversation about the convention center that never was. 

-From Pulse
   April 13, 2006