Report Recommends $750M Convention Center Expansion

The city should proceed with a proposed $750 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, according to the draft final report of a 17-member panel convened by the mayor to study the project.

"It is the view of the task force that an expanded Convention Center would provide a significant positive economic impact to our city and region," the 82-page report states.

The Citizens Task Force on the Convention Center Project, comprised of area business, development, nonprofit, hotel and labor leaders, was tasked with evaluating the feasibility of an expansion and identify financing.

According to the report, it would cost $710 million for a 250,000-square-foot expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and an additional $42 million to build an accompanying pedestrian bridge.

Those numbers don't include the projected $57 million annual cost to finance the project, according to the task force.

The panel identified several potential funding sources, including increasing the tax charged for hotel room stays; upping sales taxes; imposing a surcharge on rental cars and tickets to area attractions, sporting events and concerts; a parcel tax; and seeking assistance from the state, county, port and Centre City Development Corp.

Proponents maintain that the project is too expensive and that the money would be better used elsewhere, while Mayor Jerry Sanders maintains the expansion is needed to retain large conventions and attract new ones.

The task force's report supports that position, stating that demand for convention space is greater than the supply and that San Diego is "losing many highly desirable, and lucrative events to our competitor cities."

Attracting just three to five of the largest shows, requiring 600,000 to 800,000 square feet of exhibit space, would "alone make the expansion successful in terms of new economic impact," the report says.

The Convention Center now has about 615,000 square feet of meeting space.

According to the task force, expanding the Convention Center would contribute about $372 million a year more in direct spending in the city and have a $698 million annual economic impact countywide.

The task force is scheduled to vote on the report at its meeting Monday afternoon at the Barrio Station Theater.