Case Study: Building Community Support for Expanding the Convention Center

Summary

The Mayor’s Citizens Task Force on the Convention Center Project was created to successfully advance the Phase III expansion of the San Diego Convention Center by building community consensus and support and engaging key stakeholders necessary to expand the waterfront facility.

The San Diego Convention Center Corporation is a public benefit corporation created by the City of San Diego to exclusively manage, market, and operate the 2.6 million sq. ft. waterfront facility. The Center is currently celebrating 25 years of service as the regions premier gathering place.

Challenges

The San Diego Convention Center was faced with an occupancy level in excess of 60 percent limiting the facilities ability to attract new convention business, retain existing clients who were outgrowing the current venue, and attracting new events that could not fit into the current convention center. Educating the San Diego public and key stakeholders was essential in advancing a proposed Phase III expansion.

Solution

At the urging of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders convened a “citizen’s taskforce on the convention center project” that was comprised of a range of stakeholders from the hospitality, tourism, business, labor, environmental and architectural fields. The taskforce conducted nine public meetings in each of the city council districts throughout the city and evaluated the convention centers past performance, evaluated the feasibility of an expansion, identified various financing options, encourage public comment and make a set of final recommendations.

Results

Over the course of eight months, the task force launched a public website, conventioncentertaskforce.org, where all materials were posted and public comments could be made; encouraged public and stakeholder participation, convened 11 times at various times and locations, heard from 12 industry analysts and consultants and received number comments from the public.

The task force issued a final set of recommendations urging the Mayor to “finalize the scope and cost of the proposed convention center expansion project; work with the primary stakeholders to identify the revenue and financing necessary to bring it to fruition; then move forward on the expansion of the convention center.”

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