Friday, October 21, 2005

Convenetion Center Follies

Tuesday evening the CFA held a public meeting to have the public share there thoughts about the two locations for the proposed new/rebuilt convention center. I was not able to go due to a midterm in public finance – real exciting topic. I, like many people in the region, was able to read the PD’s description of the happenings the next day. It was ok, but it did not give me a real feeling of what happened.

So now, I would like to publicly thank Chas Rich for his detailed blog (feed) of what happened that night. Since he was not under the constraints of space or had to deal with an editor, we were allowed - as readers who may not have attended - to have a better grasp of what happened on Tuesday evening. Thank you for providing us with these details.

I now have to disagree with some of Chas’ closing statements – particularly:

You would think facts like this would stop a city and people cold.

The inventory of U.S. exhibition space has increased by 30 percent - up to 85 million square feet - in the past five years, according to Hacker's group.

About 80 centers are under construction or being substantially renovated, he said.

St. Louis and Pittsburgh recently opened new centers. A new center is scheduled to open in Erie, Pa., in 2007.

Expansion projects are under way at centers in
Chicago, Cincinnati and Kansas City. And Detroit and Indianapolis are considering expansions.

And Cleveland wants to join the party.

It is these reasons Chas stated, that we need to build/rebuild the center we currently have. I may not be able to eloquently explain the economic reasons to back up my belief, but I know for a fact that in order for downtown to prosper, the city must have a convention center that outshines those in other cities. How do I know this?

I drove a taxi for three years. I watched as each of those years business from convention and conferences dropped. I had passengers in my cab tell me how much they liked coming to Cleveland but hated having to be in a center where they could not get WiFi or decent cellur coverage when inside the building.

I talked with truck drivers who hated dealing with the limited dock space that is provided now. One driver told me that he lost a coin toss with another driver over who would deliver in Cleveland and who would deliver in Detroit for a trade show.

I actually had a trade show operator (at least that is what he said he was) tell me that unless the city upgraded its center, he would do whatever it took to not have his trade show come here again. (Not sure if he ever followed through on that.)

It is for these reasons and those stated by Chas that we need to do this - not the only reasons. Otherwise, the few trade shows and conventions that still come here will indeed decide to go somewhere else.

I hope everyone realizes that convention centers are not in the money-making business. They are solely in operation to bring people into the city so they can spend there money on the amenities they have.


Audient said...

If a new center is to be built, it needs to be part of an overall big plan. There is no point in building it if we don't expand the airport. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have new convention centers and major regional airports. Why would anyone put a convention in Cleveland when you can't get a direct flight here from so many places?

Now, as for paying for it, this is where casino gambling comes back in. Put it on MGM or whoever wants to put a casino in Cleveland that in order to win the bid to build the casino, they have to build and pay for the convention center too. Why have the tax payers of Cuyahoga county pay for it -- because it isn't for them, it is for the people who come here to play. Last time they seriously looked at how to pay for it, it became a race to see what else they could tax us all for, you know, for sidewalks and the like. But no, the better idea is: expand the airport, legalize gambling, have any casino who wants to come in pay for the convention center, and (finally) put an end to this nonsense in Columbus that would clamp down on adult entertainment. Because if you can't get a little incidental contact in a table dance in this town, then no one is going to want to come here for a convention either. There, I said it.