Members of the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotions Commission took a tour of the Pine Bluff Convention Center Wednesday afternoon to look at sections that, all together, need millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades.
The tour was led by Pine Bluff Convention Center Executive Director Joseph McCorvey. McCorvey began his tour inside of the convention center auditorium, which suffered roof damage during last year’s hail storm. He said it needs replacing.
The walls and floors are also separating in portions of the dressing room areas of the auditorium and will require repairs. Additionally, the stage floor has been damaged due to leaks caused by the hail storm. It too will require repairs.
There is no structural damage on the exterior walls of the convention center, but it was built in the mid-1970’s when walls and floors were constructed separately. The walls are solid, but the floors are sinking in and will require repairs.
McCorvey noted that it would be much cheaper to repair the problems rather than attempt to build another facility.
“The convention center was built and opened in 1976,” McCorvey said. “The cost of building a new convention center in today’s economy would (be) nearly $80 Million. The convention center has not had any capital improvements in decades, yet has strong bones, potential and a bright future if we continue to upgrade and invest in the building – as well as address the hotel matter.”
The Plaza Hotel, which is attached to the convention center, has been in disrepair for several years. The convention center has stopped associating events with the property as a result.
McCorvey said that the cost of improvements and upgrades would be roughly $2.6 million.
“My staff and I have started research on items needed for capital improvements,” McCorvey said. “There are items that require immediate attention if we don’t want to experience unnecessary costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today’s projections on capital improvements is $2.6 million.”
McCorvey’s funding requests include $118,330.11 for improvements in the banquet hall kitchen, $399,534 for the banquet halls, $197,028 in improvements to the exterior of the convention center, $273,350.94 in cleaning, upgrades to lights, environmental controls systems, fire and smoke alarm upgrades, and painting for the entire building, $1,424,812.31 for repairs to the auditorium, loading dock, dressing rooms, and other auditorium improvements, $57,935 for replacement of doors and seating areas in the common lobby, and $150,000 for the replacement of the chill tower in the boiler room.
McCorvey also noted that a building is needed to keep the arena risers out of the weather. Currently, the risers are kept outside of the building at the loading dock and are subjected to the weather unless they are set up inside of the building during events such as the King Cotton Holiday Classic.
There are other potential repair and upgrade expenditures for which costs have not been determined at this time, such as stainless steel covers for the vent hood and new tile for the floor in the banquet hall kitchen, banquet hall restroom and other renovations, sidewalk replacement on the north side and at Entry D of the convention center, replacement of gutters and renovation of auditorium dressing rooms, renovations to the seating areas for the common lobby, parking lot resurfacing and renovations to the front offices of the convention center.
McCorvey is hoping to get funding for repairs through the Advertising and Promotions Commission, Go Forward Pine Bluff and a slush fund set aside for convention centers made available by the governor’s office. A bond to cover expenses could potentially be pursued as well.