Expansion Urged for San Francisco’s Moscone Center

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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San Francisco, CA – The editorial page of San Francisco’s major newspaper recently joined tourism officials in urging the city to take a serious look at expanding the Moscone Center by approximately 25%.

The San Francisco Chronicle said in a July 6 editorial that since tourism was the leading industry in the City by the Bay, the competitive viability of Moscone should not be taken lightly.

“When the city’s No. 1 industry has a problem, San Francisco is obliged to do more than listen,” the editorial said. “That’s why city leaders are right to explore a major expansion of Moscone Center and find a way to pay for it.”

SFCVB Forms Task Force

The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) has formed an expansion task force, which in June released a preliminary proposal for an expansion known as Moscone East. The plan would add 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and 180,000 square feet of meeting space that would be ready by 2017.

The expansion is being touted as necessary to protect San Francisco’s market share. Some of its marquee technology events are reaching the limits of Moscone’s capacity, currently 783,092 square feet of prime exhibit space and 359,000 square feet of meeting space. The center, built in 1981, is ranked No. 17 on Trade Show Executive’s directory of the World’s Top Convention Centers.

“It’s hard to find anyone who doubts the need for more exhibit space,” the editorial said. “The problem is finding available space and paying for it. After all, Moscone is shoe-horned into a built-up corner of the city.”

A price tag for the project has not yet been released, and the SFCVB has stressed that a good deal of economic analysis will be required.

San Francisco has a significant funding asset in its Tourism Improvement District, which charges a 1% to 1.5% tax on hotel rooms citywide that is earmarked for Moscone improvements.

Weighing Political and Public Opinion

The public debate may be another matter, particularly since the current recession has stretched the city budget and cut into business travel. The Chronicle, however, said the issues were “not a deal-killer at this point.”

“The suggestion of a bigger convention center has brought on political agreement, not division, a blue-sky condition that shouldn’t be wasted,” it said.

Reach Joe D’Alessandro, SFCVB president & CEO, at (415) 227-2698 or joe@sanfrancisco.travel