Las Cruces is a border town. The city is so far south that it’s closer to Mexico than to the New Mexico state capital. But Las Cruces is a border town in more ways than simple geography. It’s a place where Old World heritage melds with a new frontier of community and culture.
Las Cruces is home to New Mexico State University (NMSU) and its nearly 14,000 undergraduates. It serves as the gateway to Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, where it is hoped that its anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, will eventually be able to launch civilian space flights.
White Sands National Monument is 50 miles northeast of the city, and the jagged points of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, which President Barack Obama declared a national monument in May, are 20 miles east of the city.
Then there’s Las Cruces’ up-and-coming downtown and the neighboring historic town of Mesilla. And, of course, no one should miss out on the city’s authentic Mexican fare.
“It’s a mesh of cultures,” said Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, convention sales manager for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You have the university. You have a huge retirement community. We’ve got government and military, but you’ve got your local flair. And our food is amazing. We’re known for our food.”
Las Cruces has about 130,000 square feet of meeting and event space citywide. A big chunk of that came with the 2011 opening of the 55,000-square-foot, Gold LEED-certified Las Cruces Convention Center. With roughly 30,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 14,500-square-foot exhibit hall and an 8,900-square-foot ballroom, the center opened the city to new meeting and convention markets, Miller-Hernandez said. The facility also has six flexible meeting rooms totaling 3,000 square feet and about 5,000 square feet of outdoor event space.
The city is also set to add to its inventory of 3,300 guest rooms. One new hotel is being built, and another will soon be under construction. A Comfort Suites is going up on Telshore Boulevard in the northeast part of town, and a Hampton Inn and Suites on Hickory Drive in the southwest part of the city is lining up permits. Although neither will be a meeting hotel, they will add to the city’s inventory of sleeping rooms.
Existing hotels are also investing in remodels and renovations. The Ramada Las Cruces Hotel and Conference Center recently wrapped up a remodel of its 114 guest rooms that included new bedding, new carpet, fresh paint and new microwaves in each room. The hotel, which is across the street from the convention center and one block from the university, has a 6,200-square-foot flexible ballroom that can be used in eight different configurations. The Bar can accommodate about 120 for a banquet, and the smaller Santa Fe meeting room holds about 20 people.
The Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces was built in 1986 but looks as though it could have been built in 1886. Each Heritage Hotel and Resort property has a distinctive feel, and Hotel Encanto is no different, said sales manager James Wilson. The hotel’s design and decor is a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Mexican Territorial “that comes together to create something that’s truly of Las Cruces,” he said.
Indoors, guests will find Spanish tiles, wrought-iron chandeliers and curving archways. The hotel’s 202 guest rooms, 10,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and a 5,000-squarefoot ballroom that can be broken into four smaller rooms were renovated in 2006 . In July 2013, the hotel completed a $1 million project that renovated and added to the 25,000 square feet of outdoor event space, Wilson said.
Part of the renovation doubled the size of the patio that’s connected to the hotel bar, Azul Ultra-lounge. The patio now features a large fountain and two communal tables, and the flow from the indoor bar to the outdoor patio makes it a popular space for weddings and receptions, Wilson said. The hotel can also hold two events there at the same time, one inside and one out, because each space has its own entrance.
The project completely changed the pool area, moving it farther from the hotel by expanding it into what was parking lot space. A mezzanine with fountains and fire pits overlooks the palmtree-lined pool, so “you get a real sense that you’re somewhere else; it almost feels like a resort,” Wilson said. Next to the pool, the hotel also added a large event lawn.