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Examining the Victoria Community Center

By ROBERT ZAVALA
July 10, 2011 at 2:10 a.m.


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Much talk in recent months hinged on whether Victoria is the right fit for a convention center and hotel.

Those leery of such a development point to the Victoria Community Center, a building they say ably meets big-group needs.

A February 2010 study, conducted by analysts from Austin's Avalanche Consulting, says otherwise. The study, commissioned by the city council, suggests significant alterations to the community center.

So while Victoria awaits the results of a separate study to determine the feasibility of a convention center and hotel, the Advocate examines the city's community center, the competition and avenues for change.

As the names suggest, community centers aim to meet the needs of its community. Convention centers generally cater to visiting groups.

OVERVIEW

Location: Intersection of North and Ben Wilson streets

Owner and operator: City of Victoria

Dome: 12,305 square feet; 1,200 standing capacity

Annex: 7,729 square feet; 500 seating capacity

Arena: 46,641 square feet; 1,625 seating capacity.

Grounds: 1,500 parking spaces

USAGE

Booked 79 events in 2009.

Private: 24 percent

Public: 23 percent

Professional: 18 percent

Trade show: 12 percent

Livestock: 9 percent

Youth: 6 percent

Entertainment: 4 percent

Sports/auto: 4 percent

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Financial data from 2008, most complete year available at time of study.

Operating budget: $470,591

Retail spending by 6,467 out-of-county visitors: $226,000

Hotel spending: $96,000

Indirect, ripple effects: $375,800

COMPETITION

Because out-of-county visitors help centers generate greatest economic effect, convention space and nearby hotel are key. Convention space, in square feet, of community centers in similar Texas markets:

Victoria: 7,279

Lufkin: 16,000

San Angelo: 19,000

Bryan: 28,828

Longview: 40,000

Abilene: 57,000

Wichita Falls: 57,141

BEST SUGGESTION

Analysts studied four renovation, expansion scenarios. To get best bang for buck, they suggest:

Maintain current center configuration, add covered pavilion building plus indoor exhibit hall and event building.

Alterations would increase yearly economic injection to $3.25 million - from $1.2 million in current form.

WHAT'S NEXT?

While council approved minor cosmetic upgrades to the center - such as replacing old room dividers - it does not appear major rehab work will occur. The center serves its local purpose well, Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said. Many people predict the city will be home soon to a separate hotel and convention center or conference center, thus nullifying the need for major community center upgrades.

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