Convention Center Modernization

The Mesa Convention Center and Mesa Amphitheatre have been an economic driver and community resource in downtown Mesa since the late 1970’s.  The venue’s event base is comprised of local, regional and national events, including association, corporate, social and exposition events, as well as festivals and concerts.  The Convention Center partners closely with Visit Mesa, The Phoenix Marriott Mesa and other local hotels, to bring business into the City to generate additional revenue and stimulate Mesa’s economy.  The Convention Center remains the largest meeting and event space in the East Valley.

The document attached to the end of this report also shows a list of clients that have outgrown the space since 2015 as well as those events with a projected revenue greater than $20,000 that are currently scheduled through FY2018-2019.

Fiscal Year Amp Events CC Events Total Patrons Total Revenue
12/13 12 997 211,944 $2,597,461
13/14 7 823 174,619 $2,075,080
14/15 8 933 236,154 $2,549,880
15/16 11 727 257,473 $3,307,687

 Recent improvements/upgrades to the facility include:

  • Building A Restroom Renovation (2015)
  • Building A Carpet Replacement (2015)
  • Building B HVAC Replacement/Upgrade (2015)
  • Building C Restroom Renovation (2015)
  • Building B Air Handler Replacement (2016)
  • Building C Air Handler Replacement (2016)
  • Building B Restroom Renovation (2016)
  • Building B Carpet Replacement (2016)
  • Building C Carpet Replacement (2016)
  • Mesa Amphitheatre Rigging and Catwalk renovation (2016)
  • Mesa Amphitheatre Concession Stand renovation and upgrade (2017)
  • Building C EMS Upgrade (2017)
  • Area lighting enhancements (2017)

The following items should be considered as possible improvements/upgrades to the venue. While some are large scale capital projects, there are also smaller changes and/or enhancements that could be completed provided funding and required resources are available.

 

Mesa Convention Center

  • Denotes priorities with smaller capital investment

 

Expand Building C (Main Exhibit Hall) to include the current Plaza area

  • Currently the Exhibit Hall is 15,000 sq ft, plus an additional 3,000 sq ft of adjoining space (Mesa Room). The Exhibit Hall is the most utilized space of the facility. Adjacent to Building C is a large outdoor plaza.  By expanding the Exhibit Hall into the plaza area, rentable space could be doubled.  Including an airwall to partition the room into multiple sections would provide additional rental opportunities.  Based on current business and rental inquiries, additional space would be heavily utilized by current clients, and attract many additional clients.

 

Construct a Parking Structure on 3rd Place Parking lot

  • Parking is an ongoing concern at the venue when large events are taking place. Constructing a parking structure on the lot north of Building A (between MLK Drive and University Dr.), would alleviate parking issues, while potentially creating an additional source of revenue. Ideally, the upper level of the structure would be covered with solar panels, providing additional shaded options while generating revenue to offset utility costs.

 

Build a second story on Building A

  • Building a second level on Building A would create an additional large meeting and event space. Ideally this space would be divisible with airwalls, allowing multiple configurations, and would include lobby/reception areas and windows.

 

Install windows on the east wall of the Superstition Ballroom

  • The Superstition Ballroom is the largest event space in Building A and is divisible into two sections. This is the room most utilized for social events.  By installing windows on the east (outdoor facing) side of the room, the overall aesthetics of the room would be improved.  Attractive landscaping plants would need to be added outside of the windows (planters are existing), and blackout curtains or shades would be needed to cover the windows when an event required projection.

 

Convert Building C water pump building to ticket window/registration area

  • Currently, a small structure exists outside of the entrance to Building C, which previously housed water pump and equipment for the plaza fountains, which are no longer there. This small structure could be converted to a ticket/registration window for events taking place in Building C.

 

Remove aggregate sidewalk and replace with smooth concrete

  • The sidewalk throughout the campus is comprised of aggregate stone. This surface proves difficult for some ADA and elderly patrons, and is dated looking.  Replacing the aggregate with smooth concrete would make the areas more ADA friendly, and would update the look of the facility from the outdoors.

 

  • Upgrade the Sound System in each building
  • The in-house sound system in each building is aging and not fully functioning. Replacing these systems with modern, state-of-the-art equipment would improve the audio quality and enhance client’s events.

 

  • Install security cameras throughout the facility
  • Currently there are no security cameras inside or outside the buildings, nor alarm systems. Installing security cameras in the parking lots, the Administrative Office, the Amphitheatre and at the entrances to each building would assist with providing a safe environment, and would be beneficial if unfortunate incidents were to occur.

 

  • Install new Marquee signage
  • Replace and install new Marquee signage to highlight and promote convention center events, partners, clients and downtown Mesa events

 

  • Re-paint the facility (under consideration for summer 2018)
  • To create a fresh appearance, retain a professional to select a new color palette for the facility and repaint the outside of each building. The adjacent Phoenix Marriott Mesa is tentatively planning on painting during the summer of 2018, so to do so at the same time, and coordinate color palettes, would be ideal, as clients often use both facilities for their events and we strive to provide a seamless experience for those groups.

 

  • Update Conference Theatre to include power and charging stations on desktops
  • The Conference Theatre, in Building B, has built-in executive style desktops on a floor sloped toward the stage, at the front of the room. By providing power and charging stations along the desktops, this room would be more attractive to meeting and event planners, as well as to event guests and could better be marketed.

 

  • Provide complimentary wi-fi in public areas
  • Currently wi-fi is available for purchase by event planners for their meetings, conferences or other events. To remain current to industry trends, the venue should be configured so that complimentary wi-fi is available in the public areas of the facility.

 

  • Provide comfortable seating (currently being considered), and charging stations in public areas
  • Providing comfortable seating in the lobby areas would improve the appearance and functionality of those spaces. Equipping some areas with high top tables that include charging ports would be keeping up with industry trends and provide an additional service to guests.  Furniture would need to be fairly light-weight and easily movable, as the lobby areas are often used for event space/registration, etc.

 

  • Replace and Install new artwork throughout facility
  • Building C currently has hanging artwork however Building B and A are without artwork. Ideas include working with local schools to bring in local artist exhibits to display while rotating throughout the year between schools.

 

  • Install Electronic Message Boards
  • Current printed welcome and directional signage is outdated. The installation of electronic signage boards can be easily updated and managed while improving the appearance and convenience to customers.

 

  • Install water bottle fillers
  • Currently there are drinking fountains in each of the buildings. In an effort to keep current with trends, and ‘go green’, water bottle fillers could be installed in the fountain locations.

 

  • Provide outdoor furniture
  • To enhance the guest experience and the aesthetics when approaching the buildings, durable outdoor furniture could be placed on the patio areas and outside the entrances to the buildings.

 

  • Install speakers in the parking lots
  • Installing speakers in the parking lot, and having music playing while guests are arriving and leaving events would be a pleasant enhancement and would start the ‘guest experience’ from the moment they arrive.

 

Mesa Amphitheatre

 

The Mesa Amphitheatre is a 4,950-capacity outdoor venue with tiered lawn which attracts concerts and festivals throughout the year.  Although several successful events are held annually, the venue is underutilized, due to various factors, which include:

  • Competition from similar and newer venues in the Valley
  • Promoters who own their own venues and utilize the Amp for ‘overflow’ events
  • Existing contracts and licenses which limit ability for negotiation
  • Lack of expertise and dedicated focus in renting a venue of this kind
  • Sound restrictions that are in place which restrict the times and volumes of events

 

To attract more business to the Amphitheatre, and therefore generate additional revenue to the City, the following are suggestions for enhancements and improvements which should be considered.

 

Change the budgeting structure to enable the Amphitheatre to be able to purchase talent (similar to how the Mesa Arts Center operates).

  • Currently, the Amphitheatre operates on a rental model, so staff is unable to solicit or bid on acts that are touring, or to promote shows. The Amphitheatre relies on promoters to bring show and either rent the venue directly, or co-promote shows.  If the budgeting structure were to change so that Amphitheatre staff could be competitive with local promoters, and book and market their own events, more events could be secured, and more revenue would potentially be retained by the City. This would only be feasible if a dedicated staff member were hired to fulfill this role.

 

Hire dedicated staff assigned to oversee all aspects of the Amphitheatre

  • The concert and festival industry is unique and competitive, and it would be beneficial to hire a staff member with expertise in this area to fully capitalize on opportunities to increase programming at the venue. Ideally, an Amphitheatre Manager would have the authority and knowledge to solicit and bid on concerts and events, negotiate contracts with both current promoters and tours, operate ticket services, oversee concession and ticketing contracts, negotiate pouring right agreements, navigate liquor laws, secure sponsorships, and hire staff and contractors to execute events.

 

Build a new concession stand in the northwest corner of the venue

  • Semi-permanent tents which serve only beer and liquor are in the northwest area of the venue currently. Since concession sales are a large source of revenue during events, increasing the number of points of sale and the efficiency of sales would increase revenue. Constructing a new, modern concession stand would likely have a direct positive impact on revenue.

 

Build a new concession pad or stand on the east end of the upper hill

  • The far east side of the upper hill is very steep and therefore not utilized often, and is somewhat unsafe. To remove this area of grass up to the current retaining wall, and pour a concrete slab where either portable concession carts/tents could be placed, or a new, small concession stand could be built, would increase the point of sale locations.

 

Install ‘sail’ shades to cover the bowl area

  • Many concerts tour throughout the summer months, and the Amp is in full exposure to the sun until early evening during those month. To install ‘sail’ shades, preferably retractable, would add shade to primary area of the venue, which would enhance its marketability, and provide a more pleasant and safer experience for guests and performers.

 

Renovate backstage to include a Production Office

  • Currently there are two ‘dressing rooms’ backstage in the Amphitheatre, however, one is used exclusively as a Production Office for show managers and promoters, since a true office does not exist. Promoters have continually requested an office be built backstage, either above the current dressing rooms on the east side, or on the raised concrete area on the west side, near the loading dock.  Enhancements of this kind would make the venue more user friendly for both promoters and performers.

 

Add climate control to the entire backstage area

  • Currently, only the east side of the backstage area has air conditioning or heat, which makes it challenging and unpleasant for much of the year for those involved with setting up shows in the Amphitheatre.

 

Expand the Amphitheatre Box Office to include more point of sale windows

  • Currently there are three windows in the Amphitheatre Box Office. By expanding the Box Office forward, an additional two windows could be added.

 

Make the venue ADA compliant – Install a handicap ramp to provide access to the bowl area and add additional designated handicap seating.

  • Currently, a limited amount of handicap seating is only available along the sidewalk tier of the Amphitheatre. To install a handicap ramp on one of the side hills that can provide access to the bowl area, would be an enhancement that would assist with ADA accessibility, and possibly help to secure additional business.

 

  • Install Video Monitors on either side of the stage and near concession areas
  • Although the venue is situated well and guests can see from most areas, installing video monitors that could display the concert while it is taking place would be a nice enhancement, and would be current with what other similar venues are doing.

 

  • Purchase chairs for events
  • Most concerts at the Amphitheatre are General Admission, however, some do request seating in the bowl. The bowl can accommodate nearly 1200 chairs, which can be sold at a higher price than GA tickets.  Providing seating can be cost prohibitive, however, since chairs need to be rented when seating is requested.  By purchasing chairs, the venue could provide this service at a reduced cost, while still increasing revenue that would normally be offset by rental costs.

Although the facilities are well maintained and improvements take place on a continual basis, there are many opportunities for modernization of the facility and services.  It is staff’s recommendation that a professional firm, specializing in advising and planning for similar venues, be retained to complete a full performance/enhancement study.  In doing so, staff feel that the items identified in this report should be considered as possible improvements/upgrades to the venue.

 

Available Funding

 

The agreement between the City and Visit Mesa provides $200,000 annually from Transient Lodging Taxes to be placed in a restricted fund to provide a funding source for improvements to the Convention Center.  The current “CVB Fund” balance is $2,004,418.