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More costly convention center plan will pay off

The city of Sacramento is poised to spend up to $240 million renovating the Sacramento Convention Center.
The city of Sacramento is poised to spend up to $240 million renovating the Sacramento Convention Center. rbyer@sacbee.com

Sacramento is on the verge of transforming downtown into an even more vibrant entertainment and convention district. On Tuesday, the City Council will have an opportunity to make these ambitions a reality by approving updated plans to renovate both the Sacramento Convention Center and the Community Center Theater.

Opinion

There are many good reasons why this vote is so highly anticipated. The existing hotel occupancy tax is enough to finance the renovation of these two buildings plus Memorial Auditorium. An expanded convention center and new hotels will generate additional revenue to fund tourism-related projects.

Years of research and planning shows that expansion of the convention center complex provides a significant return on the city’s investment with more conventions, more visitor spending and a healthier business community. Meetings and conventions are the largest driver of tourism in the Sacramento region, with an economic impact of more than $121 million in 2017.

The plan sends a signal to existing clients and the national convention industry that Sacramento has been strategic and deliberate in meeting the evolving needs of the market.

A critical piece of the updated plan is the addition of a 40,000-square-foot ballroom in the project’s first phase, rather than in phase two as originally designed. That ballroom is made possible because Sacramento’s hotels stepped up with the necessary $40 million to pay for it. They have made that commitment because many of our largest convention clients made it clear that the new ballroom is essential for them to keep and grow their business here.

A second ballroom will allow Visit Sacramento to target bigger conventions and also levels the playing field with competing convention centers in San Jose, Long Beach, Portland, Reno and San Francisco.

Another key element of the expansion plan is that it will allow two groups to occupy the building at the same time. Known as stacking in the industry, it helps to eliminate empty hotel rooms and wide fluctuations in visitor spending. It will also allow Visit Sacramento to pursue more events.

While the price tag for renovating the Convention Center, Community Center Theater and Memorial Auditorium is significant, this investment will fuel the major driver of our regional economy and strengthen Sacramento’s place as a destination city.

Mike Testa is president & CEO of Visit Sacramento. He can be contacted at mtesta@visitsacramento.com.

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