Comstock's magazine 0818 - August 2018 - Page 76

ECONOMIC GROWTH and conventions. It’s nothing personal, many times just a matter of space. But los- ing convention groups, Testa says, means a loss of potential economic impacts for local communities in the tens of thousands or even millions of dollars. Sacramen- to’s main competitors, San Jose and Long Beach, both expanded their convention centers in recent years while the Sacra- mento Convention Center Complex (which includes the Community Center Theater and Memorial Auditorium) has fallen be- hind, Testa says. So what would it take to catch up? This has been the question for the past few years, debated among stakeholders such as city officials, tourism authorities, devel- opers and local hotel operators. Last year, the Sacramento City Council approved $16 million to upgrade the Memorial Auditori- um (scheduled for completion by Novem- ber 2020) and $83 million to renovate the Community Center Theater (scheduled for completion by April 2021). In the renovated theater, patrons can expect upgrades such as refurbished seats, bigger restrooms, more space in the “THIS IS PART OF THE TRANSFORMATION OF THAT K STREET CORRIDOR. WE HAVE THE ARENA ON ONE SIDE OF K STREET THAT DRAWS PEOPLE, AND THE TRANSFORMED THEATER AND CONVENTION CENTER IS THE OTHER BOOKEND THAT WILL LIGHT THINGS UP FOR THE CITY AND COMMUNITY.” - Matt Wade, project director, Kitchell CEM lobby to mingle and a wider array of food options. Performers can look forward to enhanced acoustics and speakers, and im- proved technology, such as lighting, theat- rical rigging and safety equipment. “This is part of the transformation of that K Street corridor,” says Matt Wade, project director with Kitchell CEM, the general contractor for the theater. “We have the arena on one side of K Street that 76 | August 2018 draws people, and the transformed theater and convention center is the other book- end that will light things up for the city and community.” Of course, these renovations will make the theater more attractive to the public. But if the Convention Center can lure more large groups to town for big events, at- tendees will stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and enjoy local entertainment – an economic ripple that could pay major dividends year after year, says Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. “The more we can identify and book conventions, the better,” he says. “The benefit to downtown can’t be undersold.” According to the City, plans for the first phase of the project include expanded ex- hibit space, additional meeting rooms, a new kitchen, an east lobby and a new west lobby in a 205,000 square-foot building. The original cost of the renovation was es- timated at $120 million. But some business owners didn’t think the plans would make enough of an economic difference. The Convention Center needed more space, they said. Hoteliers, specifically, wanted to add a second ballroom of 40,000 square feet, which would allow two groups to rent space at the same time, cutting down on days lost to moving in and out, and gener- ating more potential revenue for local ho- tels, according to Doug Warren, regional director of operations for Welcome Group, which oversees five Marriott-branded ho- tels in California. Visit Sacramento held meetings and conducted studies to ana- lyze the potential impact. Currently, Convention Center groups account for about 138,000 rooms booked a year, Warren says. In 2021, the first full year the center will open, a study com- missioned by Visit Sacramento projected that number jumping to 175,000 and up to 255,000 the following year. These are, however, conservative numbers because accounting for every room attributed to a particular group is tough, Warren adds. (He also notes that growth in room nights — the actual rooms