Hastings discusses possible new conference center

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Updated: Fri, 11 Oct 2013 09:50:58 CST

Six months and $15,000 later, we're now learning whether or not Hastings needs a new convention center.

Private consulting firm, VenuWorks is recommending the city build a 40,000-square-foot conference center.

Grand Island has the state fairgrounds and the Bossleman Event Center.

Kearney has the Younes Conference Center and the Viaero Events Center.

While Hastings has Hastings' Hotel and Convention Center, the Adams County Fairgrounds and the City Auditorium, those places aren't living up to the demand.

"We looked at everything that's in the market, how that's being utilized and then we took it to the next step and that brought us to the conference center." Said Sharon Cummins with VenuWorks.

Where a convention center generally has a large exhibition space, VenuWorks says the Adams County Fairgrounds fills that need.

So, a conference center would offer an upscale venue with a 13,000 square foot ballroom that could accommodate about 900 people. There would be an attached hotel and food and beverage service. It could host multiple events at one time to maximize revenue.

Without any subsidy from the city it's projected to operate at a net loss.

Cummins says that as visitors come to town they'll use restaurants, gas stations, and shopping.

The overall economic impact could bring in millions of extra dollars each year.

"It's worth $100,000 if your annual impact is upwards of 2 or 3 million dollars." Said Kaleena Fong, Executive Director of the Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

What about direct competitors? Some are welcoming the idea with open arms.

"When you bring 100, 300 people into the community for 1 to 4 days, whatever it may be, they're going to have to have some lodging rooms. We only have x number of rooms and so do my competitors, but it creates the occupancy to grow." Said Harry Dwrak, manager of the Comfort Inn Hastings.

The projected cost of the project is about 6 to 8 million dollars to build the 40,000 square foot facility. Where it might go though is still up for debate. The hot spots being downtown or north on 281.

A group of community stakeholders helped pay the 15-thousand dollar cost for the study through VenuWorks.

Those include The Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the CCC Foundation, CPI, City of Hastings, Mary Lanning, Hastings College, Hastings Economic Development Corporation and the Community Redevelopment Authority.