Port Commission on board with funds for convention center expansion


City News Service

The commissioners of the Port of San Diego Tuesday approved the contribution of $3 million annually to pay for the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

The contribution over a 20-year period will be part of a financial package that is also expected to included a surcharge on hotel room rates.

Supporters of expansion believe a bigger convention center will be able to book larger meetings currently going to other cities, and the financial benefits will spill over to area hotels and restaurants. They also think the port’s tenants, which range from waterfront hotels to sports fishing enterprises, will benefit.

The center sits on port property but is operated by the city.

A consultant’s report projects the port will generate an additional $6 million in revenue if both the convention center and nearby Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel are expanded. The hotel plans to add 500 rooms in a separate project.

While the port commissioners voted to approve their contribution, they also ordered staff to negotiate details with the city.

Earlier Monday, the Chula Vista City Council, in a special meeting, unanimously approved a resolution that expresses support for the expansion as long as extra revenue generated by the project is distributed equitably among members of the Port District. Chula Vista is a member, along with other cities that have shoreline along San Diego Bay.

City and convention officials say 111 conference organizers have bypassed San Diego as a destination in recent years, despite being interested in coming, because other towns offer more space. The confab with the biggest impact on San Diego, Comic-Con International, was nearly moved to Anaheim or Los Angeles because of space limitations.

The project would increase the size of the building by 961,187 square feet, to more than 2.75 million square feet. The floor space of meeting rooms and ballrooms would double under the plan.

Having more room could attract an extra 25 major annual events to the center, worth $121 million annually in additional hotel room night income, according to a consultant’s study.

A vote by hotel property owners on the room-rate surcharge is scheduled to take place next spring.