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RSCVA’s fast work lands big convention

Duane Johnson

When the International Reading Association needed an alternate city for its annual “Teaching the World to Read” convention in 2004, the Reno- Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority immediately snatched the opportunity.

Association figures sang high praises of the RSCVA as they announced plans for the group’s convention, a five-day event slated for May 2-6, that will bring 18,000- 20,000 people from around the world to the Reno-Sparks area.

The convention will generate an estimated 31,000 roomnights and will

bring in $17 million to the region.

John Ascuaga’s Nugget and the Reno Hilton have agreed to serve as headquarters for the convention.

Other major hotel-casinos in the area will accommodate some of the convention guests.

Reno’s chance to host the 2004 event arose when the IRA pulled out of a agreement with Toronto because political and economic conditions in Canada prevented many members from attending.

In looking for a replacement city, the next city on the list for the association was Reno-Sparks, which already was in the running to host the convention in 2009.

Carol Creekman, national convention sales manager for the RSCVA ,said she had several talks with IRA representatives on possibly bringing the 2009 convention here.When she received a call from the IRA offering Reno-Sparks the chance to host the 2004 conference on short notice, Creekman responded that RSCVA was ready and willing to take on the venture.

“It’s kind of a gift from the heavens,” Creekman said.

“We’re very excited.”

The annual convention has previously been held in large metropolitan cities including this year’s host Orlando, Fla.

So what made Reno-Sparks so attractive for the IRA? The organization was tantalized by the capacity of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and the availability of hotel accommodations, plus the variety of

recreational activities available for participants.

“Once we saw the abundance of meeting space and hotel room availability, it was ideal for us,” said Melanie Hughes Younger, director of professional conferences and meetings for the IRA.

“There’s so many things for them to see and do.”

Another factor was that with Reno-Tahoe International Airport and other major airports in the surrounding areas that provide reasonably priced and accessible air travel for IRA members.

“We were surprised to find it was very affordable and that it was close to other major airports,” Younger said.

Alan Farstrup, the executive director of IRA, said he was very pleased with how the RSCVA was able to help resolve the hectic situation.

The only remaining concern, he said, is integration of the transportation system between each of the IRA’s the two host hotels and the convention center.

He is very confident, though, that the RSCVA will have a system in place.

“The bureau has been outstanding to us,” Farstrup said.

IRA is an organization that promotes literacy to all age groups worldwide.

It has 300,000-350,000 members in 99 countries.

Some of its members include teachers, reading specialists, university faculty, researchers and media specialists.

“It’s a very rich collection of people who can teach kids to read effectively,” said Farstrup.