|By Mariana Alvarado, The Arizona Daily
Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 2011--"Arizona's beach" -- Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point -- is getting ready to compete internationally for trade shows, conventions and exhibitions.
Construction of the city's first convention center is set to start this month and will be finished by the end of 2011, officials say.
With an investment of about $10 million and a capacity of 6,000 visitors, the center will be able to accommodate any type of event, Puerto Penasco Mayor Alejandro Zepeda said.
"We are already hosting different events, from business to religious events, and sometimes we don't have the right place for those conventions," Zepeda said.
The convention center is being built with resources from the state of Sonora and the city, and officials are working with hotels to bring international conventions.
That includes a partnership with the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote the concept "Come to the convention, come shopping," said Alejandro Ruiz, general manager of Mayan Palace Beach & Golf Resorts in Rocky Point.
"The idea is to offer to clients from anywhere in Mexico to come to the convention, and we'll have their car rentals or shuttles ready to take them shopping, either to Tucson or Phoenix," he said. "We have all the services they need. This is going to attract other types of tourists."
Felipe Garcia with the Tucson bureau said the organization is putting together a list of potential conventions and events that could be held in Penasco and include trips to Tucson.
The bureau has done this before. Last year, the organization brought to Tucson groups of tourists from the central Mexican state of Queretaro who flew the first charters to Penasco.
"We also worked with a mining convention of people from Hermosillo. We sent them tourist guides, et cetera," Garcia said.
Penasco needs foreign tourism, but Arizona needs Mexican shoppers, Zepeda said.
Transportation won't be a problem. Penasco's convention center will have parking capacity for up to 14 buses and shuttles that eventually could be used to bring tourism to the Old Pueblo.
The convention center, located at the old airport facility, also will have parking for 660 cars, an exhibition lobby, a massive conference room, as well as green areas and a roundabout entry area, Zepeda said.
Once the facility is ready, Puerto Penasco will be looking for companies -- including foreign -- interested in operating the place. The construction work is by Mexican companies.
Penasco already has a good hotel infrastructure, with more than 5,000 rooms available, plus condos and houses for rent, the mayor said.
But a convention center is needed, and it also helps to capitalize on other services and tourist attractions such as the golf resorts, beaches and desert, he said.
It's very important that Penasco is well-known not only in the United States, but in Mexico, and the convention center will bring national events as well, said Ruiz, with the Mayan Palace.
"Nature has been very gracious with Penasco, so now we are building the convention center to offer the same high-quality services that cities like San Diego or Los Angeles do," Zepeda said.
Contact reporter Mariana Alvarado at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4597.
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