So far, the task force studying a potential $1 billion expansion of the San Diego Convention Center has been hearing largely from Convention Center-paid consultants touting the demand for a bigger center.
At Thursday night’s meeting, some task force members asked for another perspective.
“You’re doing a great job of giving us the upside stuff,” said Pete Garcia, chairman of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Foundation, to Convention Center officials. “I’d like to see the downside stuff.”
For instance, the argument for a larger center is that it would draw large conventions and prevent big-ticket conventions from leaving. But some task force members said they wanted to know the reasons these conventions might not come to an expanded center and the financial effects that would have on the city.
Another such panel, the Chargers Task Force convened by then-Mayor Dick Murphy in 2002, scheduled a formal presentation from Richard Rider, president of the San Diego Tax Fighters who was critical of a new stadium.
Convention Center spokesman Steven Johnson said while the center provides staff for the task force meetings and pays for consultants, center officials don’t set the agenda. He said that’s up to the task force co-chairs, Port Commission Chairman Steve Cushman and Cheryl Kendrick, the former chairwoman of the Convention Center board.
Johnson said there’s likely to be more debate later in the process. For instance, he said, the environmental effects of an expansion haven’t been discussed because the task force hasn’t started discussing a location. Up to now, the task force has been focusing on whether there’s a demand for a larger center and the past performance.
“I’m not sure the market demand and the facility is what’s up for debate,” Johnson said.
But what about a presentation from someone like Heywood Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has authored reports saying convention business is declining?
“That’s a good question,” Johnson said. “I’ll ask the task force.”