Professional development, teaching organizational readiness, even just bringing people together to share common interests, all are reasons for holding conferences and meetings. But not all budgets are created equal and that, said Rod Slyhoff, is a major factor that makes Pueblo worth considering as the host city for your next gathering. And now, he said, there’s even more reason to ‘think Pueblo’ as your next convention site.
Pueblo, said Slyhoff, President of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, is more and more being seen as an attractive location for smaller and mid-sized gatherings. “We have new, modern and up-to-date facilities,” he said. The city has expanded its downtown River Walk, recently upgraded its convention center and just announced a new 120-130 room hotel in center city. Hilton properties are coming to downtown Pueblo.
The new hotel will be built on the site of the city’s old police department property and walking distance to the convention center. The property, he said, “was just purchased and construction begins in Spring of 2020.” Slyhoff, a man who’s been selling the city for years, said the Hilton announcement proves Pueblo is a destination and not just a drive-through city. “We’re thrilled because they run a good property and know how to manage facilities.”
As important as anything when choosing convention sites, said Slyhoff, Pueblo can compete. “We’re affordable, a better bargain and our food, room rates and quality of service” are competitive.
Slyhoff said the city wants to sell itself as a smaller town experience with big time amenities. “We can host multiple groups at this time,” he said. The Professional Bull Riders Association apparently found Pueblo to its liking. Not only did it relocate its national headquarters to Pueblo but also built an 18,000 square foot, world-class sports training facility. The facility, which attracts the top names in rodeo, is housed within the city’s convention center.
In the past, the Chamber President said Pueblo has lost convention business because of lack of rooms or because planners did not want to be spread across multiple locations. Slyhoff said the new hotel solves a lot of these problems and makes the city easier to sell.
The River Walk, one of the city’s crown jewels and, perhaps its number one tourist attraction, said Slyhoff, makes Pueblo unique. The city, he added, is constantly looking for ways to make itself even more attractive and saleable. The recent upgrade to the River Walk, said Slyhoff, includes expanding right to the convention center and making it convenient for hotel guests. Pueblo is also developing Gateway Plaza, the welcoming point to the River Walk.
The city has been in a challenging position for a number of years when selling itself to conventions and trade shows, said Slyhoff. “There’ve been a number of people we have not been able to attract,” just because the city didn’t have the space. The proposed new property, he believes, is going to change things. “We’re going to be able to go out and market (ourselves).” Slyhoff mentioned that the Chamber is adding a full-time, Denver-based salesperson just for that purpose.
Pueblo’s new Mayor, Nick Gradisar, who was elected last Spring and replaced the long-standing City Manager as the city’s chief executive, has made selling Pueblo as a place to visit one of his top priorities. In an interview with La Voz Bilingue shortly after his election, Gradisar expressed frustration that despite it being one of the most livable cities in the state and the country, Pueblo has fallen short in truly promoting itself and all that it has to offer.
For much of the twentieth century, Pueblo was the second largest city in Colorado. But since the late sixties, the city has slowly slid down the state’s top ten list and today sits as the ninth most populous city in the state. It may take time to change, said the new Mayor, but work on getting the word out on Pueblo will go fore bore. For now, Gradisar said that all of Colorado should make a visit. Pueblo, he said, has the diversity, the climate and the “the best Mexican and Italian food in Colorado.”
The city is just an hour or so from the Denver metro area, a daytrip at most. But, as its new Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce say, “Pueblo is the best kept secret in Colorado,” and it is ‘open for business.’