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Land deal could pave way for expansion of San Diego Convention Center

Artist's rendering of the San Diego Convention Center expansion

Artist's rendering of the San Diego Convention Center expansion

A land deal has been brokered that could lay the groundwork for a $753-million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and keep Comic-Con International from leaving the city.

The Union-Tribune reports this morning that officials with the Port of San Diego and the convention center will work together for the waterfront expansion and a hotel after they negotiated a deal with a private business group for a seven-acre plot. The Port Commission is expected to approve the deal on Tuesday.

The agreement would remove the major obstacle to a proposed expansion of the convention center that would provide an additional 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a third ballroom. That would give the San Diego venue a total of 815,000 square feet of exhibit space, roughly the same as the Anaheim Convention Center — which, along with the Los Angeles Convention Center, is competing for Comic-Con.

Once 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 and hotel — one with as many as 500 rooms — could open in 2015.

Although Comic-Con’s lease expires in 2012, the San Diego Convention Center Corp. is seeking to extend the agreement an additional three years, in part, by securing commitments from three waterfront hotels to provide for free about 300,000 square feet of meeting space from 2013 to 2015. There’s also an effort by San Diego to increase the number of dedicated convention hotel rooms from 7,000 to 14,000, which would give the city a great advantage over Anaheim and L.A. (The former has about 4,500 hotel rooms within walking distance of its convention center, the latter just 2,000.)

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