Berry unveils plans for $20M upgrade to Convention Center

The Albuquerque Convention Center will get a $20 million facelift, mostly on its older west wing, which was built in 1972.

Mayor Richard J. Berry made the announcement following Monday’s city council meeting where council members approved selling bonds that will, in effect, refinance the existing debt on the Convention Center, freeing up an additional $20 million for the improvements through lower interest rates.

Requests for proposals on the work, including architecture work, will likely go out this fall. The project will include updating the west entrance and kitchen equipment, some of it from the 1970s, and other interior improvements, such as carpeting and freight elevators. Heating, ventilation and cooling improvements will be upgraded to be more energy efficient.

Berry said visitors like the look of the Albuquerque International Sunport and he would like to see designs in the Convention Center that tell visitors they are in Albuquerque. People love to visit the city, he added.

“But too many times they say the Convention Center is tired out,” Berry noted.

He used the example of a recent site visit by a national group considering Albuquerque for its convention in 2013. Albuquerque didn’t make the cut, largely because of the Convention Center, he said. The group said the entrance to Civic Plaza did not make a good first impression and the meetings rooms needed to be updated.

The current debt load on the center is $76 million, with a maturity date of 2037. The interest rates vary on that amount since it’s comprised of several previous bond issues. But it ranges from 5 percent to more than 7 percent. The interest rate on the new bonds, which will pay off the old bonds, is 2.95 percent. The maturity date was not extended, Berry said, and the debt will be serviced by the 5 percent lodger’s tax and the 1 percent hospitality tax. The city collects a 5 percent lodger’s tax and a 1 percent hospitality tax from metro hotels and other lodging establishments.

Joe Jenkins

Joe Jenkins

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