|By Rory McClannahan, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 12, 2004 - RIO RANCHO, N.M. -- The Best Western Rio Rancho Inn and Conference Center is as much a part of Rio Rancho as AMREP Southwest.
As a matter of fact, it was AMREP that gave life to the inn in 1967. Called the Panorama Inn at the time, the Rio Rancho Inn was the stopping place for prospective land buyers in a time before Intel and sprawling growth.
"This place is as old as Rio Rancho," said Chuck Spurgeon, the inn's general manager. "It's a great property and a great location."
And now, it's got a pretty good future, Spurgeon said.
For the past year, the inn has been in receivership and has been run by a bank. But, last month, the property was bought by Total Management Systems, a Gallup motel company, Spurgeon said.
The Rio Rancho Inn had been owned by AMREP for many years but was bought by Harald Mueller in 1985. It was a place not only for visitors to Rio Rancho but for the city's residents as well. The inn had been the site for the Rio Rancho Oktoberfest until its popularity forced a move to the larger Haynes Park. The inn had also been home to an Irish Hoolie for 13 years. Mueller, who died last year, sold the inn in 1998.
In recent years, Spurgeon said, events have been declining and now the new owners want to restore the inn's past glory.
"We'll be going after more events," Spurgeon said.
The new owners also intend to spruce things up, he said. A priority will be to renovate the inn's lobby, replacing carpet and updating the decor. Rooms will be painted as needed. Spurgeon said that the inn's 122 guest rooms were renovated in 1999 and that any changes will be mostly cosmetic.
Another change could include a new roof, or at the very least, new shingles.
The real selling point for the Rio Rancho Inn is its courtyard of grassy knolls and shady trees. Spurgeon said the inn is able to book numerous events within the courtyard.
"We're only a couple of hundred feet away from the highway (N.M. 528) and you can't hear the traffic," he said.
The inn also boasts the largest conference space in Rio Rancho. Its ballroom is 4,700 square feet and accommodates 350 people. There are also three meeting rooms and a restaurant.
The inn also offers free high-speed wireless Internet.
"The whole place is a hot spot," Spurgeon said. "That's one of the things you must have if you hope to attract business anymore."
On average, about three groups a week book the inn for an event. In addition to weddings and reunions, Spurgeon said it is a popular destination for state government conferences. The inn also recently played host to a national dog show.
The inn is located on 23 acres on Rio Rancho's main road. With its shady trees, grassy courtyard and large swimming pool, the inn is a throwback to an era when Rio Rancho was a destination for retirees. Motels built now are more enclosed and built upwards.
"Motels like this just aren't built anymore," Spurgeon said. "We find our guests return year after year."
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