Moscone revamp coming at right time 

Hotel revenue is down, tourism is lagging and San Francisco is quickly losing its status as a world-class destination to hold conventions.

But tourism officials say a newer, sleeker and more tech-savvy Moscone Center will fix all those problems. Next week, San Francisco will start a major two-year renovation of Moscone Center’s North and South halls, a $55 million project that’s sure to draw more conventions to The City, officials said.

The halls, the first of which opened in 1981, will get fresh paint and carpet, new heating systems, upgraded signage and new artwork of San Francisco icons, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown, said Leonard Hoops, executive vice president and chief customer officer for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a buyer’s market and customers are expecting new, nicer and fresher buildings, and they are getting it in other cities,” Hoops said.

Moscone traditionally holds approximately 60 conventions annually, but the number has been hovering around 50 this year, he said. That’s had a domino effect on hotels, where hotel room nights generated from Moscone conventions declined from 992,000 in 2008 to roughly 780,000 in 2010, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Conventions have said that if we don’t get the upgrades that are needed, they will look elsewhere,” said Dan Kelleher, chair of the Tourism Improvement District, which is funding a portion of the project. “We are becoming noncompetitive.”

The district has long planned for these renovations, kicking in more than $20 million from its account to help pay for the project. San Francisco is funding the remaining $35 million.

Eventually, the plan is to expand the 20-acre Moscone Center, creating a tunnel under Third Street to connect the South and North halls.

It’s certainly a keen investment at a time when the hotel industry has been hit hard, with boycotts, declining tourism and now a 2 percent hotel tax increase slated for the November ballot, said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“As we work to improve the facilities that attract these multimillion-dollar conventions, it further points to the folly of increasing the hotel tax, which would hurt our ability to attract these large conventions for the future,” Winnicker said.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

 

Moscone Center

The facility that opened in 1981 has hosted fewer conventions this year.

$18 million Annual rent payments

740,000 Square feet of meeting space

$55 million Cost to renovate

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