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NMSU approves agreement that opens door to city center

The approval Monday of a ground lease agreement between New Mexico State University and the city of Las Cruces means the city may move ahead with its plans for a proposed convention center on university property.



NMSU President Michael Martin, left, watches as Steven Anaya, President of the NMSU Board of Regents, center, and Terrence Moore, Las Cruces City Manager, sign a lease agreement opening the way for the city to build a convention center on university property. (Courtesy photo)

The NMSU Board of Regents approved the city's leasing of an eight-acre parcel at the southwest corner of University and Union avenues - a location the university believes will enhance opportunities for both NMSU and the community. A convention center at that site not only will fit in with the master plan being developed by NMSU but also will encourage economic development for the region, regents said.

"In order to make economic development work, you need more than one entity," Board of Regents President Steven Anaya said. "This agreement has three major elements that make it a win-win for the region. The first is it will encourage economic development that will help the region prosper. New Mexico State University has always been at the forefront of such activities. Also when you have limited resources, you need to look at partnering that will benefit the entire community. Then you add educational advancement to that kind of development and you have the opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of people."

According to the agreement, the city would lease the property for $3,500 a year for 45 years with the right of renewal for an additional 25 years. It also has the option of expanding over an additional six acres to the west of the site. The city guarantees a minimum of five paid internships each year for students in the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program. NMSU students also will have employment opportunities at the center. NMSU would receive seven free events each year and get a discount on usage of the center for other events. It also is expected that the city will annex the land.

The proposed convention center is in tune with the NMSU master plan that has called for a redevelopment along University Avenue that will become the university's front door. In conjunction with this, a hotel and a planned performing and visual arts complex would be part of the transformation.

Ben Woods, senior vice president for planning, physical resources and university relations, said the agreement would not have happened "if we didn't have good people willing to work hard and willing to work together to do good things. We have much to be proud of and much yet to accomplish. We know we are stronger when we work together."

President Michael Martin called the approval and later the signing of the agreement between the city and the university historic.

"This agreement continues the relationship between the university and the city and allows NMSU to advance its mission while contributing to the community as a whole," Martin said after watching Anaya and Las Cruces City Manager Terrence Moore sign the agreement approved by the board earlier in the day.

In other actions, the board also approved a supplemental water agreement and a new major in agriculture and community development and expressed support for Spaceport America. The water agreement continues a history of collaboration between the city and NMSU on water supply. The two have worked together before to meet the water needs of the region with the university supplying water to off-campus residences for more than 40 years before the city extended service to those areas in 1965.

The board also elected new officers for the coming year. Laura Conniff is now president; Bob Gallagher, vice president; and Steven Anaya, secretary-treasurer.