Last night, I blogged my surprise that the draft report issued by the city’s Convention Center task force made so many mentions of University of Texas at San Antonio professor Heywood Sanders, a convention center critic, especially since the report recommends that San Diego’s Convention Center expand. Sanders’ arguments were mostly disparaged.
Just before I went home yesterday, I e-mailed the report to Sanders, who gave a presentation to the task force in May, to ask what he thought. We spoke today.
Sanders said the report “thoroughly mischaracterized” his positions. The report indicates Sanders concedes that San Diego doesn’t fit his research, which argues that convention center expansions don’t economically benefit cities as much as they expect.
An example is in the report’s executive summary:
The most vocal critic of publicly funded convention centers, Dr. Heywood
Sanders of the University of Texas at San Antonio, when asked by Taskforce members about SDCC’s relative performance against its competitors, characterized San Diego as a “conundrum,” because it did not fit his profile of failed or failing convention centers across the country.
As is later referenced in the report, and in the transcript of the presentation he gave to the task force, Sanders said his “conundrum” was not that San Diego’s experience didn’t fit his profile. Instead, Sanders was puzzled that convention attendance figures didn’t seem to correlate with statistics on hotel room nights generated by those conventions. Sanders told me today he was unsure of the data Convention Center officials had provided him.
“It doesn’t mean something’s wrong,” he said. “It means I can’t assess it very well because I’m not entirely comfortable with what’s presented and how.”