This past August, the Reno Sparks Convention Center unveiled a new addition to its 500,000 square feet of space. Reno Tahoe Studios is a 3-piece sound stage and movie set, which Reno Sparks CVA chose to add after CEO Chris Baum transferred from Detroit. His collaboration with Hollywood production companies inspired the decision, providing more business to the evolving convention center. We spoke with Chris Baum, president & CEO of the Reno Sparks CVA.
Why did you choose to add a production stage to the convention center?
Reno Sparks is a unique model because we are a town of 240,000 people with nine hotels that have between 200-800 hotel rooms in each. All of those come with a large amount of meeting space. For example, The Grand Sierra Resort & Casino has over 200,000 sf of meeting space, and the 1,600-room Peppermill Resort has a 63,000-sf ballroom onsite.
When groups come to Reno, they like to use the meeting space on-property. What that means for us at the 500,000-sf convention center, we have a lot of space and availability for sporting events and other gatherings in addition to meetings.
When I arrived here from Detroit, I saw great potential to use the convention center for film and production because we worked with film crews when I worked in Detroit in 2010. Since we are only an hour away from L.A., I knew that we would be a great facility for film sets and studios. It's very flexible because we can still use that space for meetings because we are a convention center, the space is totally converted. We have three ballrooms that can be converted into studios at 50,000, 60,000 and 70,000 square feet.
What kind of spaces do you offer to groups onsite?
The convention center is made up of five exhibit halls, connected by skybridge to the 800-room Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa. Halls 1 and 2 are on the north end right near the resort, so it's perfectly accessible for groups that are staying there. We also have a 30,000-sf ballroom. It's a pretty flexible space considering what a small town Reno actually is. Again, we also rely heavily on the hotels in the area because we are a resort town. We are top 20 center in terms of square footage, even though we are in such a rural area.
How do you use your location to your advantage in Reno?
Tahoe is only 30 minutes away. That surprises a lot of people. We have many groups that will do half the day in Tahoe and then spend the rest of the day in Reno, that way they have a fun outing before or after their meeting. Tahoe is one of the most gorgeous Alpine lakes in the world. There are several options for recreation. We have the largest rock climbing wall in the world located at the nearby Whitney Peak Hotel. You can also arrange a group to white water kayaking in the Truckee River in the middle of downtown Reno. You can walk right from your hotel down to the river and go fly fishing. The river meets the needs of the residents here and it's totally purified from the mountains.
What are some unique selling points for the CVA?
The CVA owns and manages the convention center, the Reno Sparks Livestock Events Center, the Wild Creek Golf Course, the 7,500 seat-Reno Events Center and the 80-lane National Bowling Stadium. We operate and have total control over all of these facilities. There's no red tape involved when you want to utilize these venues because we own these facilities. A lot of groups from California actually travel to Reno to use those venues and see live concerts like Carrie Underwood and The Who at the events center.
How is the destination a great value?
It's a convenient combination and very affordable. The thing that this destination really has going for it is incredible value. We have big city amenities, but the pricing is extremely competitive.
One thing that always surprises meeting planners is the price of coffee. It's $40 for a gallon of coffee. They are so used to paying $100 per gallon for coffee. Menus and hotels are also lower in price compared to our competition. For a Western meeting, they owe it to themselves to look at Reno because we can accommodate anything with our convention center and our hotel products. Plus, not a lot of people have been here and if they have, it's likely that it was 20 years ago. Things are very different now. We are also a very safe city and have 300 days of sunshine. It almost never rains here. It's absolutely gorgeous weather.
What are groups doing during downtime?
Reno has a very small footprint. Everything is easily accessible within 10 minutes. It can't get any more convenient. Midtown is a popular area for bars and restaurant. There's also a lot of shopping. There's an array of museums, including the National Automobile Museum with a beautiful variety of collector cars. The Nevada Art Museum is a dramatic, modern venue that hosts several groups for cocktail parties. It's quite an experience.