A welcome center at the National Hispanic Cultural Center has always been part of its master plan. Now, work will begin on the anticipated structure in the coming weeks.
Progress on the welcome center began to take place in 2014, when then-Executive Director Rebecca Avitia came on board.
The first step was to raise private funds and then secure state funding. Both goals have been met.
In May 2015, New Mexico Mutual Casualty Co. purchased the naming rights for the welcome center. The deal called for New Mexico Mutual to pay $200,000 over the course of two years, which was completed in 2016. The naming rights extend for 10 years.
“The naming rights will begin as soon as the structure is complete,” said Alberto Cuessy, NHCC interim director. The 20-acre campus has a number of entrances.
Cuessy said the welcome center will be an important addition to the campus because it will be the first thing visitors see.
The design plans show that the center will be in front of the Torreón – or watchtower – on campus.
It will also house the NHCC box office, as well as La Tiendita gift shop and a conference room.
The box office will sell tickets to all NHCC events, including those at the art museum.
A design was approved by the Department of Cultural Affairs and the NHCC board of directors in 2017, but momentum slowed.
Request for bids were put out. The submissions came in much higher than the allocated budget.
Last year, the DCA took over the project and found a design and construction process that would accommodate the $800,000 budget for the welcome center.
“(Deputy Secretary) Nick Schiavo made it a priority and came up with a plan,” Cuessy said. “The process helped design a new building that would meet DCA and NHCC needs.”
The approved original plan had the welcome center up against the Torreón.
Currently, the Torreón is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, and by appointment. It also houses the fresco “Mundos de Mestizaje” by Frederico Vigil.
“It’s been pulled away from the Torreón,” Cuessy said. “It’s going to be connected to the Torreón through a vestibule. By pulling it away from the Torreón, it brought the cost down. The reason the bids were so high previously was due to the fact that contractors didn’t want to do construction outside of the Torreón.”
Cuessy said the welcome center will provide a one-stop place to purchase tickets for NHCC events and the art museum. He said having the welcome center will also give more access to the public for viewing the fresco.
“We want the center to be more accessible,” Cuessy said. “The welcome center is the next step in the overall vision of the center.”
Construction is expected to be completed by November, but Cuessy said there will have to be an archaeological dig before construction ramps up.
“The center is located in a historical area, and the digs must always be done with construction on the campus,” he said.