An analysis estimated a proposed Route 66 Visitor Center on Nine Mile Hill in west Albuquerque won’t be sustainable for the first three years of its operation.
The Route 66 Visitor Center is scheduled to break ground at the site later this year. Its estimated cost has risen from an initial $3.4 million less than two years ago to more than $12 million now, mostly because residents want more amenities there.
The Albuquerque Journal reported on the feasibility study by Denver-based Economic & Planning Systems Inc.:
… A new analysis says the facility will likely run at a deficit for at least three years and require subsidies to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual operating costs.
The study also found that the planned West Central Route 66 Visitor Center has potential as a “destination attraction” but that its long-term success will depend heavily on the community’s desire to rent it out for weddings, banquets and other events – likely needing over 100 large-scale paid functions every year to achieve profitability.
More from the Journal:
The EPS report says the Route 66 Visitor Center has potential to attract people to western Albuquerque as it will appeal to both tourists and locals “interested in the allure of Route 66 history, architecture, and culture.”
But the consultant predicts it will take at least three years to reach event stabilization during which time the venue will require help to pay its estimated $360,021 in personnel, utility and other operational expenses.
And even after the startup phase, the venue will require frequent paid activity to achieve sustainability.
“Unless event utilization is on the high end, the facility is likely to operate at a deficit,” the report says.
Here’s a brief report from KQRE-TV in Albuquerque about the study:
County commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, a proponent of the visitor center, disagreed with the feasibility study, saying people are “waiting in line” to use the facility once it’s built and therefore would be sustainable quicker.
Interestingly, county commissioner Debbie O’Malley, who pushed for the feasibility study, said she was more optimistic about the Route 66 Visitor Center after reading the report.
I suspect O’Malley’s heightened optimism for the facility is because three years for economic sustainability actually is pretty good. You’d be hard-pressed to find any start-up business that would be that profitable that quickly.
The facility’s design includes 21,500 square feet of exhibit space, gift shop, taproom, assembly space for up to 300 people, commercial kitchen and administrative space. The outdoor area would come with a 300-seat amphitheater, landscaping, drive-in movie screen and parking for visitors, food trucks and RVs.
However, if the county remains leery of subsidizing the Route 66 Visitor Center that much, it probably could delay construction of some of the outdoor features, such as the amphitheater and movie screen, until it’s on firmer ground financially.
(Artist’s rendering of the proposed Route 66 Visitor Center in Albuquerque)