Robot 6

Land deal approved for planned expansion of San Diego Convention Center

Artist's rendering of the convention center expansion and hotel

Artist's rendering of the convention center expansion and hotel

As expected, San Diego’s Port Commission today approved a land deal considered a major step toward a $753-million expansion of the city’s convention center.

The agreement gives the San Diego Convention Center control of a seven-acre bayfront plot to be used for the proposed expansion — an additional 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a third ballroom — and a 500-room hotel. Both are seen as essential to keeping Comic-Con International, and the estimated $60 million its attendees pump into the economy, in San Diego.

The expansion would give the facility a total of 815,000 square feet of exhibit space, roughly the same as the venue in Anaheim — which, along with the one in Los Angeles, is competing for Comic-Con. The group’s contract with the San Diego Convention Center expires in 2012. Organizers are expected to make a decision about the event’s future within the next 30 days.

Now that the land deal is approved, officials with the city, convention center and port district will begin an 18- to 24-month process during which time they’ll seek public comment, study possible environmental effects of the expansion, and identify potential revenue streams. If all goes as planned, and the California Coastal Commission approves the project, the expanded convention center could open in 2015.

If the expansion happens, the San Diego Convention Center Corp. would pay a total of $14.5 million to Fifth Avenue Landing, the business group that holds the lease on the property.  However, if it doesn’t happen, the plot reverts back to the business group, which then would have to build a hotel there.



Wow. What are the chances that this gets approved and Comic-Con leaves San Diego anyway?

I have the same question I’ve been asking all along. Is there any other event that San Diego has at the center that rents the entire place? The CCI can certainly fill that space, but can anything else? Does it makes sense to build and maintain a space so large if it will lay fallow the rest of the year? Yes, they can now go after other larger events, but that’s risky, as other shows are cutting back in the famous “current economy”. I’m simply not sure that the expense is smart. Using these numbers, SD wouldn’t see a profit on the building for over twelve years, not counting any additional shows they could pack into it.

I have a feeling the actions of the Hyatt this year (taking Al Gore’s heath summit and effectively shutting the comic con out of the hotel) will be the tipping point. It’s just another bit of evidence that San Diego likes the congoers’ money, but doesn’t really respect the topic of the con. I haven’t forgotten the mayor’s commet on an SD radio show that he was glad to see the comics people replaced by “people with real talent” (namely, American Idol auditioners).

Vegas would take our 60 million. So would Anaheim. So would any number of cities in this country.

The con has very deliberately been using (and asking websites to use) Comic-Con International and CCI as their name, instead of San Diego Comic-Con and SDCC. That’s a deliberate move, make no mistake.

It’s quite possible that the con has simply outgrown its home, and any attempts to keep it will end up hurting the city instead of helping.

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