Late summer is supposed to be the time of year where San Diego’s Convention Center shines the brightest. The mega extravaganza that is Comic-Con brings costumed characters, the national media and big money to town – though not as much as boosters like to say.

This time things haven’t gone according to script. Last week, an appellate court knocked down the financing plan for the planned $520 million expansion, sending a crushing blow to a project that’s been on the drawing board for more than six years. We also recently learned that the existing center is in such disrepair that it’s literally “rotting,” according to a center spokesman. And the most prominent critic of Convention Center expansions nationwide is getting high praise for his new book that argues that they are a waste of cities’ money.

City leaders are scrambling to figure out what they’re going to do about the expansion. Appeal or not? Have a public vote or not? Make a deal with the Chargers to build a Convention Center-new stadium hybrid (a Convadium!)  or not?

While they’re figuring this out, they might want to find some cash to spruce up the Convention Center the city already has. Even with hundreds of millions of dollars on the table to expand the center, city leaders never thought to add the $36 million more the existing center needs to keep it from falling apart. Convention Center spokesman Steve Johnson tweeted this picture of the “rotting” Sails Pavilion, which is five years past its lifespan, he said.

Image via Steve Johnson
Image via Steve Johnson

Five years ago, Johnson called University of Texas at San Antonio professor Heywood Sanders a “whack job” for suggesting that the benefits of San Diego’s Convention Center expansion were overstated. Sanders has now written a book called “Convention Center Follies,” where he says centers don’t provide community-wide economic benefit or growth as supports say, but they do boost the downtowns where they’re typically located.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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