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Civic Plaza may get new management

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Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

The "underutilized" Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque may soon be run by the same firm that manages the convention center. (Albuquerque Journal File)

The “underutilized” Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque may soon be run by the same firm that manages the convention center. (Albuquerque Journal File)

The company contracted to run the Albuquerque Convention Center soon may be managing another marquee city property – Civic Plaza.

Officials say the administration is finalizing an agreement that would transfer management of Civic Plaza activities to SMG, a move they hope will boost use of the Downtown property.

“I think they’ll create a synergy that will help both the Convention Center business as well as Civic Plaza,” Gilbert Montaño, Mayor Richard Berry’s chief of staff, said of the two properties located across the street from each other.

“It’s (Civic Plaza) probably one of the most underutilized parks in the entire city, and that’s unfortunate, because we’re making a lot of public-sector investments in Downtown.”

The plaza is used throughout the year for events and entertainment such as Summerfest concerts or Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies.

Of late, it has been the primary venue for launching protests against the Albuquerque Police Department and a couple of support rallies, but also for gatherings for the National Day of Prayer and group gay wedding ceremonies, pro-choice and anti-abortion rallies, the end point of an MLK Day parade, the Amy Biehl High School Urban Olympics and the Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Even the “Breaking Bad” TV series used it as a backdrop for a couple of scenes.

The goal is to have the agreement in place by July 1, according to Cheryl Rein, a manager in the city’s Economic Development Department.

Rein said the management transfer will not cost the city any additional money because associated expenses will be absorbed as part of the Convention Center’s $620,000 operational budget.

Involving SMG in Civic Plaza could help increase Convention Center bookings by “expanding the space,” Rein said in an email to the Journal . It also provides “the opportunity to tap into SMG’s corporate booking department for concerts and other entertainment events on the Plaza.”

Montaño said the change means groups wanting to use Civic Plaza will go directly to SMG rather than working their way through the city’s traditional special-permitting process.

Despite the proposed change, the city will remain involved in Civic Plaza.

“We’ll be very active partners in this whole deal,” Montaño said. “I think two will be better than one on this deal.”

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