Other than construction delays, everything is according to plan in Clovis, N.M., where the $6 million, 30,000-square-foot civic center is expected to open the end of April, early May with Global Spectrum's Neil McMullin at the helm. Global Spectrum started working with the city on a consulting basis, then scored the management contract in mid-November.

McMullin was moved there from his former Global Spectrum post at the Ikon Center, Cheyenne, Wyo. This week, he was to be joined by a new sales and marketing director, Nick Mondragon, a local. And while Global and the city are anticipating a grand opening for the Clovis Civic Center featuring entertainment, food and a taste of content, from a home and garden show set up to a conference to a wedding, there is even more going on behind the scenes.

“We're also doing some consulting work with the county on a 4,000-seat multipurpose arena they are building on the fairgrounds,” McMullin said, referring to the Curry County Fair.

While they don't have a management deal for that arena, if they do get it, McMullin can better use local staff at both venues. Joe Thomas, city manager and contract administrator, said the deal with Global Spectrum to manage the Clovis Civic Center is for three years. The city pays them a fee of $90,000 and assumes all expenses. The operating losses will be subsidized with a lodgers tax.

The venue was funded through implementation of a one-sixteenth-of-a-percent gross receipts tax on any merchandise or service. That tax was allocated to venue construction in 1996. By 2003, $2 million had accumulated and the city opted to proceed with construction. Municipal bonds were issued and construction began in January of 2005, with a February of 2006 opening date. That tax will be used to meet the $400,000 annual debt service, Thomas said. The opeing however, was delayed, possibly because of Hurricane Katrina. The architect Dekker, Perich and Sabatini, Albuquerque, has not confirmed that, Thomas said, but in talking to contractors and subcontractors, he's come to understand the delay in getting air conditioning units could easily be attributed to the fact it's more attractive to deliver 20 units to New Orleans before sending two to Clovis.

That's been the big holdup. The idea for a civic center dates back to 1979, when the plan was not approved during a local election. But Clovis has struggled with lack of gathering room all these years, Thomas said. “The only facility we have now capable of serving a banquet for in excess of 100 people is Camden Air Force Base. We really have not had a venue for gatherings larger than that. Other communities in New Mexico of a similar size have civic centers.”

McMullin said the population of Clovis is 45,000, with 100,000 in the metroplex marketplace which the building will serve. From May to May, he projects the venue will host 300 events. The operating budget is in the neighborhood of $800,000-$900,000, he said. The biggest event booked to date will be in 2007, the Economic Development Summit for the state of New Mexico, historically held in Albuquerque. Clovis is located six miles from the Texas border.

“Our best selling point is the friendly, personable hospitality here,” McMullin said. ?We will maintain that small-town charm and add professionalism and excellence.”

The Clovis Civic Center will boast the largest ballroom in town at 12,000 square feet, one room, column free. The closest hotel is a quarter mile away, a 60-room Comfort Inn. Thomas said an ad hoc committee determined minimum standards for the civic center.

“Over a series of meetings they determined the three categories: had-to-have, nice-to-have, and pie-in-the-sky stuff. The last would be an exhibition center capable of hosting major trade shows.” The city sought private management for that level of expertise in marketing as well as operations. “Global seemed to have more of a wide spectrum of experience with facilities our size to the big sports arena. They had a mechanism in place to market our building. We have no expectation of it breaking even, but we hope in a few years we won't have to subsidize to a great extent.”

Besides the ballroom, the civic center has two meeting rooms of 1,750 square feet and 1,550 square feet, a full-service kitchen with catering capabilities, 3,000 square feet of pre-function space, and a 3,000-square-foot plaza designed for outdoor events.

Interviewed for this story: Neil McMullin, (505) 935-5000; Joe Thomas, (505) 763-9650