The Paso Robles Event Center, the city of Paso Robles and Travel Paso are considering a $26 million collaboration to build a conference center on Spring and Riverside streets in Paso Robles.
At a June 20 press conference, the partnership was announced — with each interested party hoping to capitalize on a 2017 study that outlined market demand for a conference center in San Luis Obispo County.
Steve Martin, mayor of Paso Robles, said the partnership between the three entities is a step toward growing the city’s tourism industry by adding mid-week business travel and events. The conference center would provide 181 full time jobs during construction and 159 new jobs as part of the projected $12.5 million annual budget.
Plans in the works include a 15,000 square foot ballroom — able to seat 1,000 people at a banquet or be divided into separate spaces — six meeting rooms and a board room. A potential 19,500 square feet are available for the project, the study outlined.
If the proposal “proves to be financially feasible” for the city, Martin said, each of the three partners will split the bill evenly.
“If everything went as smoothly as possible, we would like to see this type of facility open by 2021,” he said.
In May 2018, the project partners commissioned a Paso Robles-specific study to determine the economic viability of a conference center. This study built on the previous report by Visit SLO Cal, a regional marketing organization, which listed Paso Robles as one of five ideal areas in the county for the project.
The study noted a shortage of ballroom space in the area “with the county’s largest space measuring just 5,400 square feet.” It identified Paso Robles’ positive conditions for the project: its capacity for a larger meeting space, 1,447 nearby hotel rooms and proximity to the SLO airport and Highway 101.
The region has been open to constructing a conference center for a while, according to Mike Manchak, president and CEO of the Economic Vitality Corp. in SLO County, something he believes is “definitely needed.”
“Following the work that SLO Cal has done, clearly there is a demand for such a center, and I think it’s fantastic that Paso Robles is the first to do that,” Manchak said. “I think it will bode well for the economy, not just their area.”
Manchak added that the facility will help provide revenue during tourism off-seasons.
He said Paso Robles’ location between the Bay Area and Los Angeles could encourage professional associations to utilize it as a midway place for meetings and certification awards during the week.
The May report projected that more than 16,600 non-locals will visit the area once the center is opened, staying in Paso Robles hotels and spending close to $2,400 a day in the city, which concurs with the project’s goal to “introduce new, diversified spending to the market,” according to the study.
“The conference center fills a great regional need and creates a new asset for the community, fair attendees and business,” Michael Bradley, CEO of the Paso Robles Event Center, said in a news release. “This project aligns with our strategic plan to be economically viable year-round and brings together a unique collaboration among our state agency, city and the private sector to form the ultimate public, private partnership.”
A future competitor for the new center could be Grover Beach’s lodge project, which includes potential plans for a stand-alone conference center.
The current project includes only 4,000 square feet of meeting space inside the main hotel building, according to Grover Beach City Manager Matthew Bronson.
• Contact Annabelle Blair at [email protected]