Port commissioners land deal for Convention Center expansion

The Board of Port Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $13.5 million land deal necessary for the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

Under the deal, the San Diego Convention Center Corp. will pay $1 million upfront to secure a six-acre bayfront site from Fifth Avenue Landing LLC. The SDCCC will then make $500,000 annual payments over the next five years, when the balance will be due.

“I applaud the port commissioners for approving this agreement and recognizing the importance of expanding our Convention Center,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said. “While there is more work to be done before we can break ground, today’s action is a critical step forward.”

Officials argue the $753 million expansion is needed to attract and keep large conventions, like Comic-Con.

“Our current size is limiting our ability on many levels because we lack enough meeting space to meet market demand,” said Carol Wallace, chief executive officer of the Convention Center Corp.

The Convention Center has turned away 381 events in recent years because of a lack of space or available dates, Wallace said. Expanding the Convention Center would accommodate 89 percent of that lost business, she said.

Opponents maintain the project is too expensive and that public money would be better spent elsewhere.

The Convention Center now has about 616,000 square feet of space. The expansion would add another 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms, 80,000 square feet of ballrooms and 40,000 square feet of retail.

The land deal was approved unanimously. Commissioner Stephen Padilla was absent from today’s meeting.