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Events May Be Life Saver For New Cruise Terminal

Evening Edition

The Port of San Diego spent $28 million on the new cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier. But with the decline in cruise activity, the downtown terminal sits vacant much of the time. But KPBS Metro reporter Katie Orr says the building is still getting some use.

— San Diego’s Port Pavilion has been open for about a year. It's designed for cruise ships. Its opening coincided, however, with a fall-off in cruise-ship visits here; drug-war violence in Mexico and a down economy are to blame.

But the new pavilion may have found its calling with something else.

With views of both San Diego’s bay and skyline, the pavilion has caught on as an events center.

The Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier.
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Above: The Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier.

In the last year more than 40 events have taken place at the center, bringing in more than $240,000 in revenue. The Port’s Rita Vandergaw said that’s happened without a formal marketing campaign.

“It has really exceeded our expectations,” she said. “We really didn’t know what kind of activity would be in the building and how many people would be interested in it.”

Recently the America’s Cup rented out the pavilion for events connected to yacht races in the bay. Vandergaw said the center has also hosted proms, meetings and commercial photo / video shoots.

But not everyone is impressed. Corry Briggs is the attorney for the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition. The group fiercely opposed construction of the pavilion and has filed several lawsuits over it. Briggs maintains the pier that the pavilion sits on was supposed to be a large public park with views of the bay. He said that would have worked fine for events, too.

“If you want to have a wedding, you want to have a bar mitzvah, you want to have an anniversary, you just want to have a celebration, this is place where you can come and enjoy the bay,” he said. “And except for crowds, or maybe some public art here and there, you can see the bay, 180 degrees. Now you can’t.”

And Briggs said event revenue doesn’t paint the full picture. He said security, maintenance and operation costs all have to be taken into account.

Officials said the port has spent about $229,000 this year on maintenance for the pavilion and the pier it sits on. And event planners requiring security must pay for it themselves.

Vandergaw said the Port has 18 parks around the bay and that the pavilion provides another option.

“This is an amenity that we don’t have on the bay. We do not have a facility, a building,” she said. “When people have a wedding they’d like to have it in a covered facility.”

Vandergaw said event revenue brings in about $10 thousand a day when the pavilion is rented out. But she acknowledges that does not make-up for the decline in cruise-ship activity, which brings in about $30 thousand a day when a ship is docked.

With a poor economy and continued drug-war violence in Mexico, cruise lines don’t figure to expand service in San Diego anytime soon. It may be time to start marketing the harbor-side pavilion to party planners.

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Avatar for user 'kristenaliotti'

kristenaliotti | November 28, 2011 at 10:58 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

At about 1:55 sec, on the video, you see the awful reality of what has happened to that pier. Tents, fences, barriers, blocked views, more barriers. I loved it when it was just a simple, wide pier. We could walk to the end and see the magnificent views of the Bay. It's a travesty what happened here. No number of smiling staffers representing the Port District can make this a good development.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | November 29, 2011 at 8:17 a.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

That building looks like a piece of crap. I wonder who the contractor paid to win the right to build it.

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | November 30, 2011 at 1:36 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Let's see. The Port spent $25 million to build the new cruise ship terminal but doesn't have enough cruise ship traffic to justify it. Since it's opened, it looks like they've netted $10,000 dollars from holding events there. At that rate, what will the port's return on it's $25 million investment be? Doesn't sound like much. This white elephant sitting on Broadway Pier will be an eternal monument to the port staff's lack of financial know how. Whoever dreamed this boondoggle up should have been fired long ago.

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