San Diego, California, is the eighth largest city in the United States but its convention centre is outside the country’s top 20 in terms of size and this is worrying local hoteliers and event organisers.
Although San Diego’s hotels celebrated Comic-Con’s recent extension with the city recently, the GM of the Wyndham San Diego Bayside noted that although that comic book convention was good for business for two or three days, the city needed to expand its convention centre “before the city falls too far behind other destination cities”.
Eustice told ABC News: “Having larger conventions, biomedical conventions, pharmaceutical conventions, medical, investment conventions… those are the businesses of the future.”
The San Diego Convention Center 57,135sqm of space is dwarfed by the likes of Las Vegas and Orlando, destinations which have twice as much. Chicago’s convention centre is almost four times larger with 241,547sqm of event space.
“Because our convention centre is small, we’re missing out and we know that we’re going to be outpaced by other developments currently taking place,” Eustice warned.
“It makes you feel like the future’s in doubt,” he added.
The San Diego Convention Center Corporation had to go to the Superior Court in January to get plans for expansion approved in the face of a campaign by environmentalists and vested interests.
City, business and tourism leaders have long argued that the current centre is at maximum capacity and cannot attract larger, more lucrative meetings.
Challenges, however, still stand in the way of expansion, including persuading San Diegans to approve a future hotel tax increase to finance the project, the costs of which have escalated from an original US$55m to nearer $700m, according to local media.