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ECVA undertakes feasibility study for expansion

Rob Sabo
rsabo@nnbw.biz

The Elko Convention and Visitors Authority is moving a step closer to its goal of adding additional convention and meeting space at Moren Way by undertaking a feasibility study to determine the size and cost of an expansion.

Expanding upon the 50,000-square-feet of the existing meeting and convention space is a crucial element in boosting convention business, Executive Director Don Newman says. The facility is in use an average of 26 days a month, and scheduling conflicts have been detrimental to expanding current convention business and special events and gatherings.

“It would position us to be able to expand conferences and meetings that we currently hold and allow us to accommodate more groups that we don’t have dates for,” he says. “It also would allow us to bring more of the mine expo indoors.”

“Demand for the building is growing more and more, and we just can’t accommodate more groups — we already are running into booking problems for 2016. We are fighting for space.”

The annual Elko Mining Expo is the most glaring example of overcrowding at the convention center. This year the ECVA turned away more than 60 companies that it simply couldn’t accommodate due to lack of convention space and hotel rooms — and that’s with setting up dozens of companies on the dirt lot behind the convention center and closing two city streets to house vendors at a city park.

A crucial element of the ECVA’s five-year growth plan was to attract more convention business from Nevada state associations. After several years of work the ECVA has been generating interest from those groups but lacks open dates to accommodate additional trade shows and annual conventions in town. Another area of growth would be hosting regional high school wrestling and volleyball tournaments, Newman adds.

Other potential areas of growth could come from hosting mining firms’ annual company-wide Mine Safety and Health Administration refresher and employee-training seminars. And the much-discussed plan by Noble Energy drill for oil in the area could attract a whole new segment of business notes Tom Lester, tourism and convention manager.

Lombard-Conrad Architects — the firm behind the look of the Elko County Courthouse and Elko Regional Airport — did some preliminary conceptual drawings on a proposed expansion. The ECVA is working with a group to study public-private financing of the project and the increased revenue it could potentially generate.

The key to the expansion is determining proper size and scope of a new facility so that the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority could make payments on a loan without public help, Newman says.

“We have to figure out what we can build and what we can afford. But (a new building) would allow us to go after more state associations, as well as to go after neighboring state’s meetings and conventions.

“There is a need for this meeting space; the town has grown,” Newman adds. “The boom in Elko has created the demand. Any place that has meeting capabilities pretty much is booked. We know this is not an easy sell, but we are not looking for taxpayer money. We have to be able to afford it.”

Plans in the works to develop a Hampton Inn and a La Quinta could ease the crunch on hotel rooms. Attendees for the annual mining expo booked rooms in Wells, Battle Mountain and as far away as Winnemucca due to lack of availability in Elko.

Expanded air service to Elko from Reno or Las Vegas also could provide a key tool for recruitment of new convention business, Lester adds. Currently, Elko has just one avenue of air service, a Sky West flight to and from Salt Lake City.


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