There’s good news and bad news for San Diego Comic-Con.
While the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the construction of a $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, which houses the annual fanfest, the new building won’t likely be ready for use until 2018.
Officials behind the project — and those that oppose it — say the plans still face legal hurdles which will delay the groundbreaking.
San Diego is looking to expand the 2.6 million square foot center with 719,300 square feet of exhibition space, meetings rooms, ballroom and rooftop park (see below).
The expansion is seen as critical not only to keep Comic-Con in the city, but other events which have outgrown the convention center that opened in 1989.
The city is eager to keep Comic-Con, used by Hollywood as a promotional platform for films, TV shows and videogames, given that the event pumps as much as $180 million into the local economy each year, officials have said. The fanfest quickly sells out its more than 134,000 tickets each year.
So far Comic-Con’s organizers have made do by partnering with the Hilton, Marriott, Omni, Hard Rock and Grand Hyatt hotels surrounding the center, using them for meetings, press conferences, panels and events.
SEE ALSO: Comic-Con Home Expands in San Diego
The legal issues lie in a dispute surrounding a hotel room tax that will rise from 12% to as much as 15%. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Diegans for Open Government and the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition, say the tax should have been placed on a citywide ballot. The Superior Court has upheld the tax and attorney Cory Briggs, a rep for the org has filed an appeal, which may not be heard until early next year, which then could be followed by an appeal to the state Supreme Court. A separate lawsuit is planned to challenge the California Coastal Commission’s approval, as well as another surrounding the bond sale involved in funding the convention center.
“This convention center is not going to happen,” Briggs told the San Diego Union-Tribune, adding that the lawsuits would be dropped if voters approved the center’s financing and the project moved out of the coastal zone.
That’s not likely given the current location of the San Diego Convention Center, on the bay.
San Diego must now wait to see how the courts rule. Until then, a contract has Comic-Con staying in the city until 2016, but conversations are now underway to extend that through 2017.