New manager of Two Rivers, Avalon plans to lure people, profits to city

Theron LaFountain, 33, has been the general manager for the past two months of Two Rivers Convention Center and the Avalon Theatre in downtown Grand Junction. LaFountain said he hopes Two Rivers can begin to pay for itself by 2013.

Nobody really wanted to party when the economy turned sour during the past few years.

Companies trimmed back on the extras, starting with the annual, sit-down-dinner Christmas party or yearly conferences to far-flung locales.

The cost-saving moves may have been smart for most businesses, but the cutbacks have been more than challenging for the Western Slope’s largest venue that relies on people wanting to be wined and dined: Two Rivers Convention Center.

Two Rivers, 159 Main St., is not intended to be a profit-making entity, but city staff would like to see operations at the 23,000-square-foot facility eventually make the switch from being in the red to being in the black. Up to $500,000 from other city funds have been used to float convention-center operation costs in the past, but next year’s budget calls for about $200,000 to assist operations.

That might be where Theron LaFountain comes in.

For the past two months, LaFountain has been the general manager for Two Rivers and the Avalon theatre. With his background in theater management, coupled with running finances and events at a massive convention-type center at the University of Las Vegas, the 33-year-old already has made some progress locally. By 2013, he hopes the convention center can begin to pay for itself.

“It literally feels like a perfect fit,” he said about managing both entities.

As far as large-scale conferences go, events for 2012 are probably as booked as they’re going to be. Conference organizers tend to plan two to three years in advance, LaFountain said. In the coming year, Two Rivers will be host to a police chiefs convention and, if Grand Junction is chosen as host city for the USA ProCycling Challenge in late August, the convention center will serve as home base for a host of media outlets.

Two Rivers hired a second sales and event coordinator whose job specifically is to recruit conferences to the facility and see those events through from start to finish.

LaFountain said those workers are encouraged to search regionally and attempt to lure conferences from the larger markets of Denver, Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho, a tactic that the convention center hadn’t much employed before. The downtown addition of SpringHill Suites Marriott bumps up the capacity for visitor stays,  making it more alluring for large gatherings to consider having functions at the convention center.

Head east on Main Street, and you may notice an increase in the foot traffic heading in and out of the Avalon Theatre. Movie-goers are hitting second-run movies, or movies that are shown after they’ve left the major theaters but before they’re available on DVD.

“We’re seeing 100 people a night at The Avalon,” LaFountain said. “With alternative, indie films, it was more like 20 people a night.”

Expect to see more family-friendly movies at the theater, especially for weekend matinees, he said.

One idea to get people back into The Avalon plays out over the Thanksgiving week, with back-to-back Harry Potter films during Potter Palooza. Admission price of $2.50 a showing is sponsored by Michael Burkhard of RE/MAX 4000.

Also, for $9.50 a head, the Avalon offers companies or groups the option of showing any movie they like to employees or group members. A couple local businesses already have booked showings.

“We’re trying to take movie offerings to a larger audience appeal,” he said. “At least we hope to be breaking even in both places as early as 2012, maybe 2013.”


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