Upgrades are ongoing at the Pine Bluff Convention Center as the staff prepares for several events including the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Homecoming, the King Cotton Basketball Holiday Classic, and other events. One main upgrade that is currently ongoing is a new roof across the entire building.
Convention Center Director Joseph McCorvey said that the Rural Rise Summit gave reason to “tidy up” the building.
“The Rural Rise conference we are hosting this week gave us a reason to tidy up the building, both inside and outside,” said McCorvey. “The entire roof of the Convention Center is being replaced as we speak. That is a two month job. We have done some work outside with striping the parking lots, we have installed some speakers in the banquet hall to upgrade because there has been an issue with hearing in the banquet hall. Our new logo is on the building now, so all of the signage has our new logo that we have adopted for the building.”
Work has been done in the kitchen as well as along the exterior of the building as well.
“In our kitchen area we did some deep cleaning and some painting in there,” said McCorvey. “When caterers use the kitchen, it is fully functional now compared to what it used to be. When you come into the building now, we have gotten rid of all of the shrubs that had grown up around the main entry area, Entry B, and the chill tower. We are going to put some new plants out there with crape myrtles and things to beautify the place up. We had to replace a couple of air conditioner units that went on us this summer, and we are painting and trying to spruce up the building at this point.”
At this point, just over $2 Million has been invested in upgrades to the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“That roofing job is at just over $1 Million,” said McCorvey. “With what was invested in the building in the last year we are just over $2 Million in upgrades so far. We need so much more for a 43 year old building.”
McCorvey said that there is an effort to attract new forms of entertainment to the Center.
“We are working with the Arkansas Department of Tourism. In November the Pine Bluff Convention Center, in addition to several cities across the State of Arkansas will be going to the TEAMS Conference in California,” said McCorvey. “The TEAMS Conference has all of your sports rights holders attending, and they are looking for venues across the United States to host their events at. We have invested in our arena, and we have Taylor Field, so it is my feeling that we can attract sports business to our area. When we go there, we get all of the leads so we can go back and contact them to try to convince them to come to Pine Bluff.”
McCorvey said that while Pine Bluff had not been involved in attempting to attract sports entertainment, it is important to begin doing so again.
“Pine Bluff has not been involved in several years, whereas the rest of the state cities have been involved with this,” said McCorvey. “We have been absent from these things, so our first year of having exposure again will be really getting our names out there again. It is a process. If you don’t go every year you have to go every other year to work these leads to attract people to the city.”
McCorvey said that he attempted to get the SWAC (South West Athletic Conference) and GAC (Great American Conference) basketball tournaments to come to Pine Bluff, but was turned down.
“We attempted to get the SWAC and the GAC to come here, but we lost out on that,” McCorvey said. “The GAC commissioner, when we hosted him here, said the hotel is what held us back from getting them here, but he said he noticed the Pine Bluff golf course that we may could get the NCAA men’s and women’s golf tournament here in a couple of years. So, we have to be where these people are. Just sitting back and not trying to go get their business just keeps us behind the line with Little Rock, Conway, Fayetteville, and other cities in the state.”
McCorvey said it is important to partner with other cities in the State of Arkansas to help attract entertainment to Pine Bluff.
“It is my goal to start participating to get business in here, and to partner with our other cities in the State of Arkansas,” McCorvey said. “If they don’t have certain things available that we have, and a group wants to come to Arkansas, we can go and bid on that business.”
McCorvey said he believes that a successful Plaza Hotel would be instrumental in helping to attract business and entertainment to the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“It would help us book business. That is the number one challenge that we have because in all of the other cities in the country have successful hotels attached to their convention centers,” said McCorvey. “These sports rights holders and managers want to have the convenience for attendees to be able to walk from the convention center to the hotel. If you are bringing 10,000 people for a tournament in a city, you are going to have multiple hotels. But, they always want to have a host hotel close to the venue where they are having their meetings or events. That hotel is what is keeping us from being competitive with these conference tournaments.”