At a special study session on November 9th, the Rio Nuevo Board of Directors unanimously voted to solicit bids to finance up to $50 million in capital improvement projects for the Tucson Convention Center.

Also included in the actions at the board’s Friday study session was a unanimous vote to interview architects and request estimates for the TCC upgrades.

Currently, the total price tag stands at $42.5 million. The City of Tucson has agreed to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for the complex, which would drop the total to about $35 million.

“If we want the Tucson Convention Center to be our Lincoln Center, we have to do this work,” said Rio Nuevo Board Chair Fletcher McCusker.

The improvements include:

Convention Center/Exhibit Halls/Meeting Rooms/Ballroom – $7.6 million

  • Remodeling the Ballroom, exhibit halls and meeting rooms
  • Upgrading and refurbishing the restrooms
  • Adding a separate conference room
  • Updating lighting, sound systems and data infrastructure

Music Hall – $7.6 million

  • Remodeling the main lobby and restrooms
  • Replacing the seating and carpeting
  • Updating the dressing rooms, production office and green room

Leo Rich Theater – $2.7 million

  • Remodeling the lobby and restrooms
  • Refurbishing the green room, patio and dressing rooms
  • Replacing the roof

Eckbo Plaza – $11 million

  • Upgrading the plaza and walkway
  • Improving sidewalks, landscaping, signs and site amenities
  • Updating the central fountain

In an effort to maintain the original integrity and historical significance of the Eckbo Fountain, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the board agreed to explore bringing Kenneth Kay to Tucson. Kay worked with Garrett Eckbo when the fountain was built in 1971. The two later went on to form Eckbo Kay Associates.

Arena – $4.8 million

  • Replace the ice plant and floor*
  • Repair the roof
  • Update the lighting

* The board voted to move ahead with the $2.2 million replacement of the arena’s ice plant and floor, which is the home arena for the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League. The remaining repairs and upgrades to the Arena will be included in the request for proposals (RFPs) for the overall project.

It will take about three months to demo and replace the current rink, install the new ice plant and have ice ready for use, said Glenn Grabski, general manager of SMG, the company that operates the TCC.

He said that because of events scheduled at the TCC during the next two years, the best timeline for the repairs would be June 24, 2019, to Oct. 1, 2019. However, that timeline could complicate the schedule for the Tucson Sugar Skulls, who also use the arena, if they go deep into the Indoor Football League playoffs.

RFPs will include options to possibly build a second ice rink downtown, which could provide flexibility in the TCC’s schedule, plus help nurture local youth hockey programs.

More information on these projects and downtown can be found at

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