SBD/March 16, 2011/Facilities

More Conventions May Be Key To AEG's Proposed L.A. Stadium Project

Farmers Field project tied directly to overhaul of L.A. Convention Center
Football is the public focus of a bid by AEG to "add a downtown stadium to its portfolio of arena, hotel and theater venues adjoining" the L.A. Convention Center, but the project also "rests heavily on a hope that a simultaneous overhaul and expansion of the center itself will lift the city into the top ranks of the nation's conference destinations," according to Mehta & Connell of the L.A. TIMES. Some convention experts and L.A. tourism officials are “optimistic that AEG's plan to move a wing of the Convention Center to create room for the stadium would make Los Angeles more attractive to event planners.” But others said that the project “would have to overcome a number of substantial hurdles.” It remains unclear whether the stadium project “would be profitable without a big increase in convention business.” AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke's “pitch is that reworking the Convention Center and integrating the new stadium into the operation could double the number of conventions lured to the city, adding an average of more than one new event per month.” But AEG and convention officials “set a less ambitious goal last week, telling a city panel they hope to add four to six new conventions a year.” Consultant Steven Spickard said that the “most coveted large conventions, such as medical groups, often rotate around the country and may return to a venue only every three to five years.” He added that “to get the 16 new conventions a year Leiweke has suggested, the center might need to land 45 to 60 major conventions on a recurring but not annual basis.” Mehta & Connell note two convention centers that use football stadiums for extra space -- Indianapolis and Atlanta – “illustrate the challenges” AEG could face. Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium “added 183,000 square feet of exhibition space to its convention center's 566,000 square feet of floor space.” But Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association Dir of Communications Chris Gahl said that the stadium is “off limits during about 47 training and game days” during the Colts' season. The Falcons' Georgia Dome “added 102,000 square feet of exhibition space to its sprawling convention display areas, already the nation's fourth largest.” But Georgia Dome Communications & PR Specialist Jason Kirksey said that it is “rarely used for such gatherings, because convention planners prefer the contiguous space next door at the Georgia World Congress Center” (L.A. TIMES, 3/16).
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