PHOTO by JOE PRATHER
Business and political leaders walk a hallway in the San Marcos Conference Center during a hardhat tour on Thursday. The conference center and an adjoining Embassy Suites hotel and spa are the centerpiece of the city’s efforts to build its tourism industry.
by BRAD ROLLINS
With little more than four months before its October opening, the San Marcos Embassy Suites Hotel, Spa & Conference Center is already spurring tens of millions of dollars in other construction along Interstate 35 in the city’s southern half, officials say.
A 10-floor, 283 room hotel owned by Springfield, Mo.-based John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts will adjoin a 77,300 sq. ft. conference center owned by the city and operated by Hammon’s management company. Officials hope the $75 million-plus project, including about $23 million in public funds, will bolster an already burgeoning commercial district along the corridor near outlet malls that are consistently one of the state’s strongest tourist draws.
Already the hotel and conference center have more than $700,000 in convention bookings and room reservations including a statewide university facilities and a major tour operator conferences scheduled for January, sales director Ruth Buck told a group of business and political leaders during a hard hat tour on Thursday hosted by Mayor Susan Narvaiz. The facilities’ management expects to have about $3 million in bookings by its grand opening.
“Our goal is to have that much on the books and we are certainly headed in that direction,” Buck told the group, which included both local business people and potential clients.
With about 50,000 square feet in conference and meeting space, the conference center and hotel are expected to employ a base of about 180 people with busy seasons possibly driving the number nearer to 250 positions, General Manager Tom Pugh said. The San Marcos-themed conference facility includes a 36,000 sq. ft. Veramendi Ballroom and convention floor, named for the holder of an 18th century Spanish land grant from which the city was later carved. The hotel includes a 10-floor atrium, spa, restaurant, bar and other amenities.
“Cities everywhere are trying to get facilities like these. San Marcos has so much to offer and so much to gain from a facility of this caliber. Basically having a conference center this size allows you to pull in the conventions, who stay a few days and leave without their money,” said Terri Dusek, a spokesperson for Flintco, the general contractor for both the hotel and conference center construction.
Prime Outlets San Marcos, expanded and refurbished in recent years to the tune of about $50 million, and Tanger Outlets, benefiting from its own more modest renovation, already draw about 7 million visitors a year, mall officials estimate based on sales receipts and traffic counts. One exit south of the hotel and conference center, the outlets provide both a considerable tourism base on which to build and one of the primary reasons the city landed the Hammons facility in the first place, company officials said.
Undeveloped former farm land in the area along the interstate goes for at least $50,000 an acre and some land owners in the vicinity are asking for significantly more, banking on the sector becoming a regional hotspot.
Across the interstate from the Embassy Suites, Dallas-based Direct Development’s 900,000 sq. ft. Stonecreek Crossing retail development, is currently under construction with JC Penney’s and Target committed as anchors. Officials from that company have said they expect to spend a total of about $40-$50 million in two phases. One exit north, near Wonder World Drive, the 311,000 sq. ft. Red Oak Village opened in 2006 with Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sam’s Club and PetSmart as major tenants. Other major projects are various stages of planning or marketing, including one by Dallas-based Stratford Group on 245 acres across McCarty Lane from the hotel and conference center and a 500-acre commercial and residential development called Prime Village on 500 acres adjacent to Prime Outlets.
CORRECTION: The story should have said that Stonecreek Crossing is being anchored by J.C. Penney’s and Target, not J.C. Penney’s and Best Buy.Email | Print