Convention Center to receive $753 mil expansion

Comic-Con is one step closer to staying in San Diego.

The Port of San Diego and the city’s convention center have agreed on a plan to build a $753 million expansion to the facility that would open in time for the 2015 edition of Comic-Con.

The event, which attracts 126,000 attendees each year, has outgrown its current home and organizers are considering moving to another city with a bigger facility once Comic-Con’s contract with San Diego expires in 2012.

Anaheim and Los Angeles are lobbying to land the confab. The Anaheim and Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering up its 800,000 square foot convention center, while the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau has offered Comic-Con the city’s 720,000 square foot convention center for free, as well as venues at LA Live and deep discounts on the hotels in the area, according to sources close to the talks.

The new addition to San Diego’s facility would add 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, a third ballroom and 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms behind the current convention center alongside the waterfront. If built, the center would offer up 815,000 square feet of exhibit space, similar to Anaheim’s center.

San Diego already has offered an agreement to extend its deal with Comic-Con through 2015, by offering up meeting space at nearby hotels.

San Diego’s center has been dealing with overcrowding issues since 2001, and has been forced to turn away nearly 400 events in recent years because of space issues, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Events there pump $18 billion into the local economy, a mayoral task force reported last year.

The Port of San Diego brokered a pact with Fifth Avenue Landing, a private business group that owns the 7-acre plot of bayfront where the expansion and a new 250-500-room hotel will be built.

The proposal must still be approved by orgs like the California Coastal Commission. And then there’s the tough task of raising financing to build the expansion. At least $50 million will be needed to pay back loans each year.

Comic-Con began in San Diego 41 years ago.

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