Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 11 2013

A Winning Game Plan for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion

By David McMillin

san Diego Convention Center

Last week, the San Diego Chargers unveiled the makings of a joint-use stadium convention center plan that the franchise says will meet the needs of meeting professionals and football lovers alike. However, the proposal comes with some serious red flags for the city’s tourism officials.

Carol Wallace, President and CEO, San Diego Convention Center Corporation, issued a statement that outlines the shortcomings of the Chargers’ plan.

“Our clients, when interviewed about the proposed Chargers site, rejected a non-contiguous expansion as not meeting their needs,” Wallace wrote.

Wallace is no stranger to understanding what this expansion must include in order to be successful. She and other representatives from San Diego business, labor, civic and professional associations have been working on their own plans for a bigger convention center for more than five years.

“As it currently stands, our Convention Center is forced to turn away a year’s worth of business annually because there simply isn’t enough capacity,” Interim Mayor Todd Gloria says.

Everyone involved in the expansion plans agrees that the Chargers’ proposal won’t solve that problem.

“I doubt the Chargers proposal includes standalone convention exhibit space,” Steven Johnson, vice president, public affairs, San Diego Convention Center Corporation, says. “We looked at that location with six different outlines for utilizing the area, and it just didn’t work.”

More Than A Building for Meetings

In addition to satisfying trade show organizers and meeting planners with bigger space requirements, the plan includes a five-acre rooftop waterfront park that will spur local economic activity, too. Community residents can attend events and music festivals, and  while they’re at the park, they’ll be able to soak in a view of the San Diego Bay. On the ground floor, the new building will add 30,000 square feet of new retail space.

Setting the Plan in Motion

As everyone in the meetings industry understands, any proposal that involves big dollar signs and big construction needs can take quite a long time to receive full approval. However, San Diego appears to be reaching the final stretch of that process as a vote by the California Coastal Commission - the state agency that oversees land use in the expansion area - nears.

“Once the Coastal Commission approves the plan, it removes the largest permitting hurdle,” Johnson says. “The only other hurdle is the appeal of the financing plan which was ruled legal in March of 2013. We expect that appeal to be resolved by early next year.”

Interested in learning more about what the San Diego Convention Center expansion could mean for your meeting? Click here to visit the official website where you can keep up with the latest news, review floor plan designs and more.

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