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Sunday Poll: Should Our Convention Center Be Expanded?

May 22, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Politics/Policy, STL Region 12 Comments
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In February, the topic of expanding the downtown convention center came up:

The city’s convention center complex should expand to more than 900,000 square feet, half again its current size, according to a report given Thursday to the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. (Post-Dispatch)

So this is the topic for today’s poll:

The poll closes at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    The current convention center complex is not very competetive, either regionally or nationally. Adding on to it (“expanding” it) would do very little to change that dynamic. We either need to knock it down and start over (at great expense, like Denver did) or accept that we’ll never be a big player in the convention business, and just focus on attracting local business, things like the car show, the boat show and the home show. Convention centers are like football stadiums and aquariums (stadia and aquaria?). Just because it “works” in some other city does not mean that it will “work” here! And just because taxpayers can help fund it does not mean that it makes economic sense to spend the money:

    http://www.governing.com/blogs/bfc/col-convention-center-promised-benefits-rarely-materialize.html

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/steven-pearlstein-debunking-the-conventional-wisdom-about-conventions/2014/06/27/77cac02e-fd5f-11e3-932c-0a55b81f48ce_story.html

    http://www.hotel-online.com/Trends/ERA/ERAImpactConventionCenters.html

    http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2012/06/stop-building-convention-centers/2210/

     
    • It depends on how you define competitive. I’d say regionally it’s the best facility in our region. Granted, there are newer & bigger complexes out there it can’t compete with. But how many of those does the country need? How big is the demand for the biggest convention centers?

       
      • No. Indy and KC are better. Not to mention Chicago, which is in a different league. Unless you’re defining region much smaller than I am.

         
        • I was thinking St. Louis region. Chicago’s McCormick Place is great — and huge. Even if we had an equal or better faculty I don’t think we could compete with Chicago — and that’s ok.

           
          • the St. Louis region doesn’t constitute a market for conventions. We’re not competing with the Family Arena, we’re competing with KC, Indy, Memphis, and Nashville for medium-sized national events and large regional events.

             
          • neroden says:

            There are three size classes of convention:
            — the sort which fits in one hotel, or perhaps a couple of overflow hotels. Unless the convention is extremely local, this sort will not locate in St. Louis because they can located in nicer cities. They do not need a convention center.
            — the sort which needs a convention center, but only a smallish one. This is a really small list of conventions; it’s an uncommon size. This is where you’re competing with KC, Indy, Memphis, and Nashville, but you’re *also* competing with big cities in the ‘off season’.
            — the really big convention, which occupies an entire large convention center, and requires dozens of hotels. These only end up in the big cities period.

            It’s a mistake to try to compete in the middle bracket. Indianapolis has done the best job of doing so, and honestly it’s still a mistake.

             
  2. The answer is, it depends. What conventions are we competing for? I attend the American Historical Association most years, and that can only be held in a few cities (NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta) because it’s so big. For that, it’s not just the convention center, but the hotel rooms- we need 20,000 or so within walking distance of each other, and not many cities can manage that. So I’m not sure upgrading our convention center would be enough if we don’t also have the rooms and other amenities downtown.

     
    • Mark-AL says:

      You’re right. If the STL convention center is expanded, there’ll be a need for more hotel rooms. But the city needs other attractions to keep those rooms filled during convention down-times. But I wonder if there’s a need for so many so-called “boutique” hotels, as described in the recent Post article:
      http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/boutiques-planned-for-st-louis-hotel-market/article_f3906a90-fa42-5a33-86d3-379ca2ddaefe.html
      I attend at least 8 conventions a year, and I always search out the best room rate. I’m not looking for–and I won’t stay in (will not waste company funds on) a boutique-quality room. I just want a clean room in a clean building, which is why I always look for and book a Drury Inn whenever possible. They’re typically spotless and well-appointed. My next choice is a Hampton Inn. When a single firm sends upwards of 15 employees to a single convention, it’s not looking to book those employees in palatial suites. Even our company president looks for and is very comfortable in a Drury Inn, Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

       
      • John R says:

        Even if all three of those proposed boutique hotels get built, collectively they would add just 350 rooms to the downtown room count and comprise less than 5% of the market. I don’t think it will be an issue, especially as downtown occupancy continues to do well.

         
    • John R says:

      I agree we’d need a significant increase in rooms if we were trying to land the huge mega-conventions (which I don’t think is the goal); but hotel room count is one of our existing comparative strengths (Metrolink to/from the airport is another) against many of our peer markets; we have over 5,000 within walking distance of a 1/2 mile of America’s Center and 7,000 total downtown.

      If we added the amount of space that the CVB is looking at, I’m sure we’d see a few more hotels open beyond what currently is being proposed with the current small boutique projects but I don’t think we’d see a mass rush. .

       
  3. John R says:

    I think the Ballroom expansion is pretty much the only “necessary” item beyond general maintenance/updating needs but it the resources are there it would be nice to go at least somewhat beyond that. The good news is that some public money will be available for convention center upgrades by not having to pay for that misguided riverfront stadium plan. But we’ll need the County to commit. And also the Scottrade is out there as another factor to consider.

    Feeding the convention/tourism/sports beast is expensive!

     
  4. gmichaud says:

    I think I mentioned this previously a while back, but I think they should look at building a public square or plaza adjacent to the convention center, there is plenty of open space. Specialize in something the other convention centers don’t do. A large public space would allow conventions to schedule markets, outdoor events, concerts or whatever to give their event another dimension. Tents, and temporary structures can support events in the open area.
    In addition, and this is especially relevant, since you are a former member of the Gateway Mall committee Steve. Such a space adjacent to the convention center could be more appropriately be the “civic room” that is supposed to be the area outside the Soldiers Memorial along the mall.
    Of course transit, road placement and even humanizing the adjacent highway are subjects of discussion in building a new “civic room” The costs would be minuscule compared to attempting a new convention center.
    Look at some of the great squares around the world, maybe fountains, maybe not, but they are almost always central transit points. This makes perfect sense for a convention center doesn’t it?
    A good deal can be done to improve environments without spending tons of money,
    Instead of civic debate everything is either/or when presented to the public.

     

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