Thursday, March 26, 2009 | There’s a Cold War brewing among convention centers around the country. But instead of stockpiling nuclear weapons, they’re loading up on space where orthopedic surgeons and information technology specialists can gather in droves.
That’s what supporters of an expansion for the San Diego Convention Center say they’re up against. With competing facilities from different cities mulling larger facilities, they say San Diego must do the same or miss out on huge conventions that rake in millions for the region.
A city of San Diego task force is studying various aspects of an expansion: whether to build it, where to put it, and how to pay for a project that Mayor Jerry Sanders has estimated will cost $1 billion, including a hotel and water taxi.
Proponents say an expanded convention center will essentially pay for itself by drawing in more visitors who will stay in the region’s hotels, shop in local stores, and use their attendance at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons conference as an excuse to fly in their families for a trip to SeaWorld.
That spending fills up the city’s coffers with hotel and sales tax revenue, or so the argument goes. Even if that holds true, someone still has to figure out where the money will come from to build it — a task the mayor said is up to the committee to figure out.
Part of the difficulty is that Sanders has said the funding can’t come out of the city’s general fund — its day-to-day budget that covers libraries, public safety, parks and more. San Diego Unified Port officials have also said their funds are unavailable.