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Reno makes headway on new downtown events center project

Architect, project manager chosen for downtown Reno events center

John Stearns
RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
5/6/2002 10:12 pm


The Reno Redevelopment Agency on Monday night approved a nationally recognized architectural firm to design the downtown events/convention center and a city company to oversee its construction.

In a 4-0 vote with three members absent, the agency hired Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates of Atlanta to design the project and SMC Construction of Reno to manage construction.

TVS fees for the project will not exceed $5.793,000; SMCs will not exceed $2,888,249.

The total project; which includes retrofitting the National Bowling Stadium into a multiuse facility and attaching it to a new building to the north; will cost an estimated $65 million, of which construction will cost an estimated $45 million.

The rest covers TVS and SMC fees, land acquisition and other costs for the project that proponents say is critical to attracting midweek conventions and special weekends events to revitalize the core of the regions visitor-based economy.

"Im thrilled about the firm youre selecting," said Artown Executive Director Karen Craig, who sat on a review committee that recommended TVS from a field of seven candidates.

TVS officials said they want to create a building in front of which people will want to be photographed, Craig said.

The company received the 2002 American Institute of Architects "Architecture Firm Award" and has designed the McCormick Place Convention Center expansion in Chicago, Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City and Omni CNN Center in Atlanta.

"We have designed approximately 40 convention-type facilities (across the country)," H. Preston "Bo" Crum, senior principal in TVS, told the agency.

Agency Chairman and Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin said such a firms interest in Reno makes a statement about "the value that were trying to put together here."

SMC, selected from among five candidates, won points for its successful management of the renovation and expansion of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The tab for that is $105 million, with about $65 million for construction.

"We are under budget substantially (on that project)," SMC partner Tom Carroll told the agency, adding the project also is about four months ahead of schedule.

Agency member and Reno City Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza-Hogan questioned Carroll about his safeguards for controlling construction costs.

"I dont want to see another Bowling Stadium disaster," Sferrazza-Hogan said.

The stadium opened in 1995 at roughly double original cost estimates. SMC was not involved in that project.

"Were in good hands here," Sferrazza-Hogan said of SMC before voting to hire the company.

The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority built the stadium to attract tens of thousands of bowlers to the tourism-dependent city two out of every three years during the slower winter-spring periods.

While it was successful in that regard, the stadium proved a financial drain on RSCVA, which had to tap its already meager marketing budget to help subsidize stadium operations and debt.

It conceived of the latest project to better utilize the stadium, help downtown and take the facilitys debt off RSCVAs books by transferring it to the city.

The city got the facility last week after it issued $108.6 million in bonds to refinance stadium debt and build the downtown project.

RSCVA will operate the new facility and pay for its operations, with some subsidies from the city for the first nine years.
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