City Beat

See what the new $240 million Sacramento Convention Center would look like

The city of Sacramento released architectural drawings Tuesday of a renovated Sacramento Convention Center as the City Council considered taking the next step toward approving the project.

The drawings by architectural firm Populous show a modern building with plenty of glass taking up roughly two blocks of J Street in downtown Sacramento. The new building will have a plaza-like walkway on its south side, with trees and gathering spots connecting the convention center to a renovated Community Center Theater.

The City Council was expected to approve the project's environmental impact report Tuesday night, along with designs for the convention center and theater. City staff plan to return to the council later this year with a final financing plan.

"Great cities have public venues that they can be proud of," said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. "Great cities have public venues that are genuine destinations."

The western half of the convention center, constructed in 1974, would be demolished and rebuilt under current plans. It would include a new 40,000-square-foot ballroom and additional exhibit space. The eastern side of the facility, built in 1996, would be renovated with new meeting rooms and a lobby.

The renovation of the convention center is expected to cost between $220 million and $240 million, with most of that being repaid by revenue from hotel taxes. Local hotels are also expected to contribute roughly $40 million toward the work.

Renovating the Community Center Theater would cost another $84 million. Memorial Auditorium would also undergo roughly $16 million in renovations so it can host events normally held at the Community Center Theater while that facility is upgraded. Combined, the three projects would cost up to $340 million.

City officials said they expect the hotel tax to be on the hook for roughly $21 million in annual debt payment for the convention center and theater renovations. The hotel tax is expected to generate $30 million in the current fiscal year, according to a city staff report. The financing plan will include a $5 million reserve in case hotel tax revenue falls short of projections, said Desmond Parrington, the city's project manager.

Steinberg pledged that financing the work "will not burden our general fund (budget)."

Sacramento charges a 12 percent tax on hotel nights. Of that, 2 percent goes to the general fund budget, which pays for most core city services. The rest of the revenue must go toward projects that support tourism and hotel bookings.

Construction is scheduled to begin in December or January on the convention center. The facility would be closed for major work next summer and is expected to reopen by late 2020. The last stage of construction is scheduled to be finished in March 2021.

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