San Diego Proposes Convention Center Expansion

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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San Diego, CA – The San Diego Convention Center moved ahead with plans that could lead to an expansion of the waterfront facility.

The San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) board of directors voted September 26 to acquire a lease option on 8.5 acres of land owned by the Port of San Diego adjacent to the convention center that would be used for a new convention hotel as well.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said the expansion was necessary to keep San Diego competitive in the convention and trade show market and enable it to keep events such as the annual International Comic-Con that he said had outgrown the current center.

The board’s action gave the green light to a year-long planning process that will determine the cost and how much new space would be added. The SDCCC said in a statement that while no determinations had been made, the acquisition of the site “could add up to half a million square feet of exhibit space by 2014.”

The convention center currently offers 615,701 square feet of prime exhibit space and 72 breakout rooms totaling 204,114 square feet.

Paying for the site and the construction project remain a major hurdle to an actual expansion taking place. With credit markets in turmoil, obtaining favorable financing is an open question. The land, in fact, became available only after the current tenants were unable to secure financing for a new hotel.

At the same time, the city’s own finances have been in turmoil in recent years and the public would have to be convinced of the desirability of both shouldering new debt and developing one of the few open parcels of land on San Diego Bay.

The city and the Port of San Diego share the cost of the 2001 expansion of the center through lease revenue bonds that are being paid off.

Reach Carol Wallace, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center, at (619) 525-5000 or carol.wallace@visitsandiego.com