City seeks input on expanding Austin Convention Center

The Austin Convention Center on Aug. 26, 2016. (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)
The Austin Convention Center on Aug. 26, 2016. (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the city of Austin continues to work on bringing more business and tourism into town, it also wants to expand the Austin Convention Center to accommodate future growth.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, the city will host a community meeting to get feedback on the proposed expansion of the Austin Convention Center in downtown Austin. City Council Members Ora Houston and Sabino “Pio” Renteria will host this neighborhood meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. at Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center, 2608 Gonzales St.

Built in 1992, the center was expanded a decade later due to the growing needs of the city. The city says since its opening, the center has hosted about 10 million people at approximately 3,500 events, including 900 conventions.

Last year, KXAN reported the city was eyeing property along Cesar Chavez, between San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street for the proposed expansion.

At a time when affordability and transportation discussions are paramount at city hall, Austinites may wonder where talk about expanding the Austin Convention Center fits in.

“We do definitely hear from constituents who want to make sure that we’re a city that supports its residents and pays a lot of attention to residents needs as well as being an attractive place for visitors but the two can co-exist,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said.

It’s important to note that the proposed expansion, which is projected to cost anywhere from $400-$600 million, would be funded through the city’s hotel occupancy tax. That’s revenue from hotel guests the state requires the city to use in ways that promote tourism.

“We want a downtown that is great for visitors but is also great for residents and great for Austinites,” Tovo said.

The Austin Convention Center Department says ideas include creating an open walkway with restaurants and an outdoor music stage, among other amenities, to bring locals into the mix while also providing convention space that solves the current problem. The city says more than half of the clients interested in booking events at the convention center are going elsewhere because there is no availability or the space is too small.

The Austin Convention Center Department’s director says they hope to present a plan to city council later this fall.

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