FORT SMITH (AP) — An exposition center in Fort Smith is being converted for use by a growing local business and officials expect the city’s own convention center will pick up business as a result.
The convention center regularly spends more than it takes in, so the news was welcomed by the Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission, which oversees its operation.
Health Management Associates is converting the Phoenix Expo Trade and Event Center to a regional service center, where the company plans to employ more than 500 people. The business is the parent company of Sparks Health System in Fort Smith and Summit Medical Center in Van Buren and expects to spend $4 million to renovate the expo center.
Phoenix Expo manager Lance Beaty told the Southwest Times Record that the venue likely won’t be able to hold major events on a long-term basis, though some smaller events may be able to go forward.
Tim Seeburg, convention center director, said he has already seen increased interest in bookings.
Officials say the Phoenix Expo has already given HMA a 10-year lease on 90,000 square feet at the center.
Convention center official Jeremy Richey said he’s had inquiries from planners of business meetings, social activities and other activities that were planned for the Phoenix Expo.
One point of dissatisfaction among some asking about booking the convention center is the lack of downtown parking, officials said. The Phoenix Expo, in a former mall, hasn’t had that problem.
Regardless, the convention center could use some extra money. Revenue for March was $54,285, down 17 percent from March 2012. Year-to-date revenue, $139,640, is down by 20 percent from the first quarter of 2012.
Last year, the center had more than $1 million in revenue. Officials said at the close of 2012 that the convention center had some unexpected bookings during the year and that it would be hard to sustain that performance in 2013. The Phoenix Expo windfall has tourism officials more optimistic about this year’s bottom line.
Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/