The city’s potential decision to choose a new split Convention Center expansion rests on a study under way that may conclude it’s what convention clients want.
In March, the Convention Center Corp. announced JMI Realty had agreed to help pay for the $90,000 study – it sent out a press release saying as much, and it included the contribution in materials sent to board members. JMI’s involvement was instantly controversial because the company has lobbied for the very type of expansion the study would examine and the company’s properties neighboring Tailgate Park, where the expansion could take place, would benefit if it became reality.
The only problem: JMI officials deny they ever formalized plans to fund the study, which is being conducted by Conventions, Sports & Leisure International. They also say they only became aware they were still listed as funders after Council President Sherri Lightner questioned whether their involvement posed a conflict of interest.
“I was never informed that (the Convention Center board) action was being taken, was not asked to enter into a contract, send a letter or even for an email to confirm our participation,” John Kratzer, CEO of JMI, told me in an email.
It’s not entirely clear what went wrong when, and who may have failed to communicate JMI’s change of heart, but here is what we know about the company’s disputed $30,000 contribution.
Sometime earlier this year, Convention Center Chairman Steve Cushman, who serves as liaison to the mayor’s office for the expansion project, asked JMI Realty to contribute toward the costs of a new expansion study, and JMI was open to the idea.