The Convention Center turns 25

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Convention Center turned 25 Monday, having generated billions of dollars of economic impact and given the city another iconic landmark with its Sails Pavilion, but challenges loom.

“When we look at what this convention center has meant and what it continues to offer, that is something that as mayor, I’m very proud of,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “We will continue to do great things.”

According to the San Diego Convention Center Corp., the facility has hosted 20 million people at more than 5,000 events. Its economic impact has been estimated at $24.2 billion since the 1989 opening.

More than 14 million room nights have been booked at area hotels thanks to convention center events, resulting in around $450 million in tax revenue for the city, according to the SDCCC.

“This facility is more than just tax revenues for the city — there are so many broader benefits to our community as a result of the convention center,” said City Council President Todd Gloria. “Since opening in 1989, the San Diego Convention Center has been an industry leader in the `green movement,’ constantly finding ways to minimize impacts from large events on the environment.”

The future of the convention center is hazy, however.

An expansion plan, which tourism officials say is necessary to attract the largest of the trade shows and keep the wildly successful Comic-Con International, is tied up in court.

If built, San Diego would have the largest amount of contiguous floor space of any convention building on the West Coast. Without it, officials in the local visitor industry contend that organizers of the really big conventions are opting to stage their events elsewhere, even though they’ve signaled that they’d like to come to San Diego.

“In this competitive environment, standing still is losing ground,” said Nico Ferraro, chairman of the corporation’s Board of Directors. “We must continue to find a way to build on our 25 years of success with a Phase III expansion of this facility.”

Convention center executives are also trying to get their financial books in order following several years of operating without reserves, and finalizing a plan to address more than $40 million worth of necessary capital and maintenance projects.

Among them are an $11.4 million replacement of the roof sails, which could happen in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, according to a report presented to the City Council in March.

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