By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The preliminary draft of a study about building a special events center in Havre has found that Havre could support such a facility.
"What we found is encouraging," Bill Krueger of Conventions Sports and Leisure International said today.
Minneapolis-based CS&L is the firm doing the study with CTA Architects and Engineers of Montana.
Krueger said state associations and organizations have shown more flexibility than similar associations in other states about what type of buildings they'll hold convention in. Many Montana organizations are willing to hold conventions in what could be considered "a glorified gymnasium," he said.
"You've just got this real flexible space where you can do everything from a rock concert down to conventions," Krueger said.
Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., also said the findings are encouraging. The committee formed to look at building an events center in Havre wanted to be careful it didn't let its enthusiasm for the project bias the results of the study, he said.
"We wanted to go into this project with our eyes wide open," he said.
CS&L is a nationally recognized authority in the area of multipurpose centers, Tuss said. Its finding that the Havre area could support such a center is a boost for the project.
"That's obviously positive," he said.
Hill County Commissioner Pat Conway said he hasn't had the chance to review the draft report yet, but added that the results sound encouraging.
"I think what needs to be done first of all is an in-depth look at the feasibilty study by the committee and people in the area," he said. "This would be an area approach."
The draft report was released to the local committee for discussion purposes. The committee consists of representatives of the Hill County Commission, the city of Havre, Havre Public Schools, Montana State University-Northern and the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
Tuss said committee members will review the report for errors and suggest additional they think should be included before the report is finalized.
Krueger said the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the report once it is revised.
"It will change one way or another and there will be a public presentation," he said. "We will have a forum where the public can discuss this."
The market in the Havre area could support a facility with a minimum of 15,000 square feet of flat floor space for sporting events and floor shows, the draft report concludes. The report recommends having 5,000 to 6,000 retractable seats on two sides of the floor, possibly with the ability to cover the retracted seating with movable walls for some events.
The report recommends equipping the facility with removable hardwood flooring, sport event lighting and scoreboard equipment.
It recommends including 2,500 to 5,000 square feet of meeting space, which could be divided into smaller meeting areas.
The center could also include other service and support areas and gymnasium facilities, the report says.
The analysis of the area, which included interviews with the Montana High School Association, MSU-Northern and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Montana state associations, showed that Havre could attract events from all of those organizations and other activities, including trade shows, consumer and public shows, banquets and similar events. The facility could also house concerts, family-oriented events, speakers and amateur sports, the report said.
The center could bring millions of dollars to the local economy, the report said. That includes new spending, additional spending by the owners and employees of businesses that experience sales increases, and new businesses and jobs created by the additional spending.
If the center is not located near hotels, it could bring an estimated $9 million a year in direct spending, with a total new spending of $14.5 million and 219 new jobs, the report said.
If the center is located near hotels, the estimated additional direct spending is $10.3 million, with a total new spending of $14.6 million and 252 new jobs, the report said.
If the center is controlled by the university and mainly used for NAIA events, the anticipated direct spending increase is $8.4 million with a total impact of $13.6 million and 205 new jobs.
The report said the success of the center, and the types of events it would be likely to attract, depend on its location and proximity to hotel space. The analysis of location included examining infrastructure available and improvements needed, potential for expansion, visibility, compatibility with the neighborhood, and availability of nearby restaurants, shopping, attractions and entertainment.
The sites examined in the report were near the proposed golf course south of U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre, on the Hill County Fairgrounds parking lot, north of Havre Middle School, west of Kmart south of Highway 2, on the MSU-N practice field by Hagener Science Center, and north of the MSU-N Student Union Building.
The center that would most successfully attract events and would have the greatest impact on the economy would be a center within about four city blocks of a hotel, the report said.
If the property owned by Quantum Five Inc. is developed, including construction of a new hotel, it would receive the top rating, the report said. If the site is not developed, it has the lowest rating.
The location west of Kmart received the lowest rating, but if a new hotel and restaurant were constructed, it would move into the top third of sites, the report said.
If no new hotel is constructed, the top site would be at the Northern practice field, the report said. However, it added, there could be problems with access and availability of parking if either of the university sites is selected.
The site at the Hill County Fairgrounds has some benefits, including being near the Super 8 Motel and near other facilities such as the Holiday Village Shopping Center, Krueger said. However, hotels associated with events centers are usually larger than the Super 8, and have associated services like a restaurant or room service, he said.