The Port Commission agreed Tuesday to extend by six months its bargaining talks with Gaylord Entertainment over the convention center and resort that is slated for the Chula Vista bay front.
Port staff said the decision to push back the talks, which were initially supposed to conclude this month, would likely delay the facility’s opening to 2012. Officials estimated a few months ago that it would be ready for business a year earlier.
Officials silently made the decision to extend the talks, offering no comment on the matter. They also decided to conduct more technical studies on the environmental impacts of the bay-front project to include specifics of the convention center that were unveiled in March.
Beforehand, they blasted a portion of Gaylord’s presentation dealing with the planned expansion of convention center space from 400,000 square feet to 550,000 square feet.
Commissioners said they worried that the additional space, which would make it 25,000 feet larger than the San Diego Convention Center, would create unintended competition between the two facilities when the Gaylord project was only supposed to supplement the region’s visitor business.
“We would be putting ourselves in the position of having two very competing convention centers,” Commissioner Stephen Cushman said. “I don’t think that’s in the best interest of our region.”
Most of the commissioners were distressed at the late-breaking nature of the Gaylord’s plans, saying it circumvented the public process and the preliminary agreement between the developer, the port and the city of Chula Vista.
Commissioner Mike Najera, who represents Chula Vista on the board, noted that Gaylord’s new figures come after the project has been vetted since the company was selected two years ago.
“It’s taken them that long to drop the bomb on my public, my city,” Najera said. He continued, “We’re not going to do something that is outside the public process with public input.”
Denny Stone, who manages the bay-front project for the city of Chula Vista, said the Chula Vista City Council is expected to approve extending the talks as well at a May 15 meeting.