CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle Neil McMullin is the general manager for the Clovis Civic Center. He says most of his days are spent behind his desk booking clients, but during large events he usually ends up helping out in the kitchen.
By Jean Verlich: CNJ News Editor
The Clovis Civic Center is holding a birthday breakfast Friday, and everyone is invited.
The pancake party is a thank you for the community’s support, according to the center’s general manager Neil McMullin.
Built at a cost by the city of $6 million, the facility had its first event April 19, 2006. Since then, there have been 226 banquets, meetings, consumer shows, conventions and special events.
Bookings are better than expected, said McMullin, who works for Global Spectrum, which the city hired to manage the civic center.
From July to March, the first three quarters of the 2006-2007 fiscal year, 158 events were held, 37 percent more than the 115 budgeted, he said.
“It’s good for a start,” he said. “It means that we are able to build utilization of the facility to a greater extent than what we traditionally see in markets of this nature.”
City Manager Joe Thomas said city officials are happy with the facility’s first year of operation.
“I think overall we have been very pleased with the way things have gone,” Thomas said, referring to the number of bookings and type of events.
“Favorable comments have outnumbered unfavorable comments by a wide margin.”
Giving Clovis a suitable venue for events has contributed to the city’s quality of life, Thomas said.
“We knew going in it was probably not going to be a money-making thing,” he said. City officials are pleased it is getting close to break even, he said.
Most civic centers and convention centers don’t turn a profit but operate on a planned subsidy, McMullin said.
“We were budgeted to operate at a subsidy of about $311,408 (for the first three quarters of the fiscal year),” McMullin said. “We beat that number by 65 percent.” The net loss was $189,091.
“Our ultimate goal is not to be subsidized,” he said, which is rare for civic centers and convention centers. “But it still does occur.”
McMullin described the center’s market as small and isolated, adding, “It’s a testament to the community in that they were really wanting to support a facility like this (and) also to the city of Clovis that really allowed us to aggressively book the facility.”
McMullin has been responsible for selling the civic center and plans to add a full-time sales manager.
Conventions booked include the state of New Mexico Masonic convention in March 2008, and the spring meeting of the Realtors Association of New Mexico in April 2008.
McMullin said landing the state events is a good sign.
“Clovis has never really traditionally been a destination for these things,” he said. “ I think that’s changing slowly and we now have a facility for it.”
In its first year, nearly half of the center’s events have been banquets, McMullin said.
“Our banquets will probably be literally our bread and butter.”
The largest event for attendance was the Home and Garden Show of the Home Builders Association of Eastern New Mexico, with about 4,500 people over two days.
The largest revenue-generating event was Southwest Cheese’s grand opening.
“This next year we’ve got a lot of repeat business,” McMullin said, estimating nearly 80 percent of the events will be returning.
“We still have a lot of room to grow,” he said.
McMullin said concerns by Global Spectrum have been unfounded.
“We were a little worried about that coming into a smaller town that we would hit a ceiling rather quickly,” McMullin said. “That ceiling’s much higher than we expected. To me that bodes well for Clovis.”
He is optimistic about the center’s future.
“The growth of the city is going to directly correlate with our success.”
When: 7-10 a.m. Friday
Where: Clovis Civic Center
Contest: 8:30 a.m. pancake eating contest
By the numbers
Civic Center’s first year
pounds of potatoes served