Mayor Selects Convention Center Expansion Project Team - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Mayor Selects Convention Center Expansion Project Team

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Mayor Jerry Sanders today convened a 17-member panel to study a proposed $1 billion expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

The so-called Citizens' Task Force on the San Diego Convention Center Project is comprised of area business, development, nonprofit, hotel and labor leaders.

The panel will be charged with determining what is needed to keep the convention center competitive, evaluating the feasibility of an expansion, identifying financing and addressing issues related to public access to the waterfront, according to Sanders.

The group is slated to present its findings and recommendations to the mayor sometime in September.

Sanders said the 300,000-square-foot expansion is needed to retain large conventions. He said the facility is "one of the greatest economic generators our city has ever known."

"As I have said before, the convention center is the goose that lays the golden eggs for taxpayers," Sanders said.

The convention center generated about $30 million in tax revenue for the city of San Diego last fiscal year. Since it opened in 1989, the venue has had a $16.3 billion impact on the local economy, according to the mayor's office.

The biggest conventions will be forced to look elsewhere if the size of the existing facility is not increased, Sanders said.

"We've already been told by some of our most lucrative convention clients that the existing facility is no longer large enough to hold their conventions," he said. "This means they might take that convention business elsewhere and with it the tax revenues that they generate."

Sanders said the project would also create jobs.
"Here in San Diego, it's critical for us to identify ways to help invigorate our local economy and create jobs for San Diegans," he said.

The San Diego Convention Center Corp., the agency that runs the facility, has already taken steps to acquire a potential site for the expansion.

In September, the board approved a $1 million, one-year, lease-purchase deal for about 8 acres of land for the possible expansion. The property sits directly behind the existing convention center.

If the project moves forward, the Convention Center Corp. could purchase the land for about $13.5 million.

Carol Wallace, SDCCC's president and chief executive officer, said the facility's expansion is needed despite the downturn in the economy.

"Our business is one of the most recession-proof businesses there is," Wallace said, adding that many conventions book 10 years out.

She said the expansion is "hugely important."

"We focus on the medical meetings market, and our most lucrative conventions are in that area and they have outgrown San Diego," she said. "Without an expansion, we are turning away business."

The task force will meet monthly starting in February. The meetings will be open to the public.

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