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Critic Says Convention Center Expansions Don’t Pay Off

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Aired 8/31/09

The mayor’s task force is considering whether San Diego should expand its convention center, and is expected to recommend moving forward at Monday’s meeting. But a critic of the project says the city should think twice about an expansion.

— The Mayor’s task force is considering whether San Diego should expand its convention center, and is expected to recommend moving forward at Monday’s meeting. But a critic of the project says the city should think twice about an expansion.

The expansion would add about 200,000 square feet of exhibit space to the convention center and cost about $750 million. Supporters say it would allow San Diego to book more and bigger events. But University of Texas San Antonio professor Dr. Heywood Sanders who studies convention centers says such projects rarely pay off.

“Las Vegas doubled their size a few years ago, so did Orlando. Those are both very successful destination markets. How did they do? Did they double their business? And the answer is no, nowhere close,” he says.

But the convention center’s Steven Johnson says that comparison is unfair because San Diego serves a different market. He says past expansions in San Diego have exceeded performance expectations.

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