Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
CAN WE GET OUT OF THE CONVENTION BUSINESS?
Submitted by Roldo on Wed, 07/01/2009 - 09:27.
The latest figures show that the Cuyahoga County Commissioners quarter percent increase of the sales tax has produced $61,853,863 for the Medical Mart and Convention Center. Oh boy.
Is it too late to get out of the boondoggle? We’d still have the dough. Think of what other good it might do for our community. That’s $61.8 million sitting around.
The word continues to be that the convention business isn’t a successful place for the investments of communities. Just as we’re adding to the problem.
An article in Next American Cities, a national publication seeking solutions to improve U. S. cities, gives a balanced but “thumbs down” assessment of the rush to build new convention centers.
“At any given moment, the average American convention center is buzzing with accountants, motivational speakers, comic book collectors and other hordes of professional and enthusiasts – adding up to 12,000 events a year. As the demand for space in which to buy, sell, make deals and exchange information has boomed, formerly modest meeting halls have ballooned into space that could swallow a typical Wal-Mart whole,” writes Josh Stephens. The article is entitled “Unconventional Thinking – Why Cities Shouldn’t Buy into the Convention Center Economy.”
But here comes the rub. He goes on to write: “Since 1993 American cities have invested more than $23 billion in ever-larger boxes that now number more than 320, and since 2000 the country’s total convention space has increased by 25 percent to nearly 90 million square feet, which collectively eclipses the commercial space in all but two of America’s largest central business district.
Too much space for too little use. So why do we add to it?
“The story of convention centers is that, for all cities do to distinguish themselves, the convention industry treats cities not as places but rather as spaces – fungible, interchangeable and characterless. Even though convention centers are marketed with Platonic conception of cities (palm trees, skyscrapers, longhorns, slot machines), the convention economic is one of placelessness.
Yes, any old box will do. So why come to Cleveland? For medical products?
He writes: “Convention center do not respond to market signals quiet so rationally. With fixed footprints, they generally cannot downsize, and as wholly-owned subsidiaries of urban America, they cannot outsource. Their chief solution, then, is to expand. A 420,000-square-foot expansion of Houston’s George R. Brown Center was projected to yield nearly 600,000 room-nights in 2005, but a 2006 audit found that it was generating roughly 220,000 annual room-nights. In 2003 Washington D. C. completed an $850-million expansion, as of 2007 annual convention-related hotel bookings were roughly 25 percent below projections, and the convention center’s 2007 loss was estimated at $22-million. In cities from Los Angeles to Boston to Baltimore, the story is much the same. The current economic crisis is, of course, bound to make matters worse.”
Yes, promises of gold are easy. Finding the gold, not so much.
Can we stop our train wreck? No, they’re speeding it up.
For the full story go here: http://americancity.org/magazine/article/unconventional-thinking/