Hutchison supports replacement for namesake Dallas Convention Center – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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Plans for a new convention center in Dallas and new funding for Dallas Fair Park received broad approval from City Council on Wednesday.

The woman whose name is on the convention center headed to Dallas City Hall on Wednesday to show her support for her replacement.

Former U.S. Senator and NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison was honored by the city with the name of the convention center.

She said a new one is needed to keep visitors coming to Dallas.

“I’m for this expansion because I know what the competition is like. I know the competition for conventions is strong from other coasts and even from Texas. And we have to be competitive. And if Dallas is anything, we’re competitive. We want to be the best. We want more visitors to come to our city. And when we have conventions, people come back and bring their families because we have so much to do and we’re such a great city,” Hutchison said.

Renderings of a proposed replacement show a shiny new building that would connect to I-30. Boosters say it would spread prosperity to South Dallas.

“I won’t be able to sell it if it’s just what it’s going to do just for downtown,” said South Dallas council member Carolyn Arnold.

Wednesday’s city council vote sends the issue to the Texas Comptroller for certification of the funding program so it can go to a November referendum for Dallas voters to decide.

The new $2 billion convention center and an additional $300 million in upgrades for 6 Dallas Fair Park buildings would be paid for by visitors with state hotel taxes and an increase in city hotel taxes, but not by Dallas residents.

“What I really like about it is other people’s money, the HOT tax, the hotel resort tax,” said board member Gay Donnell Willis.

Dallas State Representative Rafael Anchia helped craft state legislation to accommodate the plan.

He said it was not an example of state government interference with local control.

“This is the one where Dallas can set a course for its destiny and that’s really exciting,” Anchia said.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention center was virtually empty.

An aviation convention has the place very busy this week and tourism boosters say downtown hotels are also full.

Craig Davis, CEO of tourism agency Visit Dallas, said convention organizers have indicated long-term support for a better facility.

“Everything is adapting quickly in Dallas and our biggest challenge right now is finding staff to outfit our hotels,” Davis said.

A long-sought fundraising plan for old buildings in Fair Park is another lure for voters.

“This will be the largest investment in the exhibition center, Fair Park, since it was built in 1936,” said Fair Park Councilman Adam Bazaldua.

Council member Jaynie Schultz said the two measures were about bringing people together, which she says is something people want after two years apart.

“Just the energy in this room today, because we’re back together, the pain that we’ve all felt over the past two years of not being together, is palpable,” Schultz said.

Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn was the only one to vote against the plan.

“I think there’s a strong sense of resident different from the very beautiful, happy words that are being spoken today,” Mendelsohn said.

Among a dozen issues she listed, Mendelsohn said the true cost of the convention center plan is unknown and could leave taxpayers to blame if things don’t work out.

She said the convention center’s revenue was not enough to pay for the proper upkeep of the current building and there was no reason to believe a larger one wouldn’t face the same repair issues. .

“I am concerned about the ability of staff to deliver such an important project as we have significant challenges at the senior management level, staffing issues in many departments that are currently unable to deliver services dailies at the level we expect,” Mendelsohn said. .

The vote was 14 to 1 to advance the plan to the Texas Comptroller.

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