I was extremely happy to see San Diego’s political, business and labor communities recently come out strongly for the current plans to expand the San Diego Convention Center.
The American College of Surgeons hosts an annual convention in San Diego, the ACS Clinical Congress, attracting more than 18,000 individuals across the medical and health care profession. An expanded center will ensure our ability to grow and stay in the city.
The expansion plans provide for more exhibit space, an 80,000-sq. ft. ballroom and more meeting space — exactly what we need. The stunning rooftop park only makes the current facility that much more attractive for our attendees.
San Diego is an ideal city for us because the current convention center is surrounded by three hotels that offer more than 3,500 rooms for our attendees, with thousands more within walking distance. The addition of 500 more rooms in the current proposal would be a win for us, not to mention San Diego’s year-round good weather and wonderful attractions, restaurants and venues along the waterfront and in the Gaslamp Quarter.
A joint-use stadium/convention center facility six blocks away from the current facility and hotels would not be alluring to me or other meeting planners.
Our association’s meeting is held in October each year, and I would not risk our biggest revenue source on a venue that couldn’t guarantee space five to 10 years out. The NFL only releases its schedule within one year of the season, so there is no way to ensure my event would not have a conflict.
I would incur added costs to shuttle attendees from the hotels to the alternative location. If the venue used the stadium floor for exhibits, it would cost my exhibitors a substantial premium to pay for rigging, electrical and booth set-up. I don’t know any meeting planner who would split his or her event by six city blocks. If you threw a party for family and friends, would you choose two locations six blocks apart? I certainly wouldn’t. That makes me much more likely to choose a different city where I don’t face that choice.
The proposed joint-use stadium convention center complex puts San Diego at a competitive disadvantage and would likely result in the loss of some of the largest events in our industry. Our 2017 convention alone is estimated to generate $61 million in economic impact to San Diego, as well as nearly $1 million in hotel and sales tax revenues.
The city has created an ideal package with the location of its current bayside building. Why wouldn’t San Diego want to build on that success?
Felix Niespodziewanski is director of convention and meetings for the American College of Surgeons. Niespodziewanski’s commentary has been edited for clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here. Want to respond? Submit a commentary.