Exciting growth is happening in our neighbor to the south.
On May 11, the Pueblo City Council approved a $14.4 million expansion of the Pueblo Convention Center. The extension will add 40,000 square feet to the convention center, including an exhibit hall and additional meeting and breakout rooms.
“Words can’t describe what this means to the convention center and the community,” said Brian Hoffman, general manager of the Pueblo Convention Center and Pueblo Memorial Hall. “This will allow us to go after larger conferences and trade shows and even amateur athletics.”
Construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2016. “We want to be a part of continuing to build infrastructure in downtown Pueblo,” Hoffman said. “Now that the funding is in place, we will start meeting with stakeholders in the city and architects to get the construction documents finalized so we can go out to bid in the early fall.”
Located on the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo (HARP) in downtown Pueblo, the Pueblo Convention Center was built in 1997 and operates 30,000 square feet of rentable space in ballrooms, breakout and meeting rooms. “It can be set up and tailored to whatever an event planner or client needs,” Hoffman said. “We’ve done it all: conferences, conventions, trade shows, weddings, and meetings at the local, state, and national sizes.”
Pueblo citizens have a knack for speaking up when it comes to preserving the function and history of local venues. Pueblo was the first Colorado city to be awarded the Regional Tourism Act (RTA), the same legislation behind City for Champions in Colorado Springs. The city received $14.4 million to implement its development plan in 2012.
In 2010, the city approved $12 million in renovations to Pueblo Memorial Hall, including improvements to acoustics, stage size and audience comfort. “We installed air conditioning and expanded seating and legroom,” Hoffman said. Memorial Hall reopened in July 2013 with 1,600 seats and has hosted 65 events in its renovated space, from Sesame Street Live to musician Peter Frampton to local graduation ceremonies.
Built in 1921, Pueblo Memorial Hall, stands as a testament to the rich history of the State of Colorado and the city of Pueblo. “If the walls could talk, they’ve seen quite a bit through the last century,” Hoffman said. On September 25, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave one of his final public addresses as president in Memorial Hall, as the last stop on his tour rallying support for the League of Nations. He began his speech with compliments for the Hall’s beauty and accessibility: “Mr. Chairman and fellow countrymen: It is with a great deal of genuine pleasure that I find myself in Pueblo, and I feel it a compliment in this beautiful hall. One of the advantages of this hall, as I look about, is that you are not too far away from me, because there is nothing so reassuring to men who are trying to express the public sentiment as getting into real personal contact with their fellow citizens.”
SERVING SOUTHERN COLORADO
Though the Pueblo Convention Center and Memorial Hall make their home in downtown Pueblo, their events stimulate cultural and economic growth across southern Colorado. “The convention center is a drive-in destination,” Hoffman said. “With our upcoming expansion, we expect to see additional flights into the Colorado Springs Airport.”
The venues have also bolstered their digital fluency, including a WiFi access upgrade and new website launch for the convention center at www.puebloconventioncenter.com. “We’re working to improve the existing facility to coincide with the expansion, so it will be a seamless transition,” Hoffman said.
On July 1, Memorial Hall will host Smashmouth, Toad the Wet Sprocket, & Tonic for a night of classic hits like “All Star” and “Walking on the Sun” and new music from the bands’ latest albums; tickets are on sale for $40. Country band Lonestar will perform on July 25 at Memorial Hall as part of the band’s 20-year anniversary tour; tickets are now on sale for $37-$45.
“Pueblo has a lot of new things going on in the downtown area, including a new brew pub between the Convention Center and Memorial Hall,” Hoffman said. The Pueblo Convention Center hosted the first Big Bear Brew Fest in 2014, which showcased craft beers from more than 65 Colorado breweries for the 2,000 attendees. The Convention Center will host the second-annual fest on November 21. The Convention Center also created the Pueblo Pet Expo four years ago and hosts an annual bridal expo, Easter and Mother’s Day brunches, and a lively New Year’s Eve bash.
Now that we have the funding approved and a timeline for our newest expansion, we can really concentrate on booking new events and performers over the next couple years,” Hoffman said. “Big or small, we handle it all – from a 5-person get together to a 1,500-plate, sit-down event, we can take care of it.”