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 October 8, 1999

Convention center study gets $10,000 from BURA board

BOULDER — After unusually pragmatic and abbreviated discussion, the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority (BURA) voted 4-1 in September to commit $10,000 toward a $40,000 study that would help determine whether a convention center would be viable here.

The money would come out of BURA’s operating budget, which is $301,077 for 1999.

Now Stan Zemler, president and chief executive officer of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce — the catalyst behind the proposed study — will hear whether the Boulder City Council will chip in another $10,000. The council is expected to discuss the matter in October.

The chamber, through the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau, would pay the $20,000 balance.

If city council approves the expenditure, the contract for the study is expected to go to Minneapolis-based consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSLI). CSLI consultants have completed more than 200 such planning, development and operations projects throughout 35 states and six countries.

Such projects have included the Boston Convention and Sports Facilities, the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the Colorado Springs Civic Center, the Grand Junction Convention Facilities, the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

Before the September vote in favor of the study, the BURA board heard explanations from Zemler and City Manager Ron Secrist.

BURA staff recommended spending the money in part because BURA Executive Director Brad Power said demand existed for a 30,000-square-foot conference center with an adjoining 350-room hotel, according to a study he had reviewed commissioned by The Macerich Co., owner of Boulder Crossroads shopping mall.

Crossroads is slated for redevelopment, and Macerich officials long have indicated their interest in having a hotel/conference center be part of the long-term goals for the property, which is in the Boulder Valley Regional Center (BVRC), a 300-acre urban renewal district.

Power said even if a proposed convention center did not “land” in the BVRC during a site-selection process, it still would constitute a legitimate financial gain, in terms of sales-tax revenue generation, for the larger community and would benefit the BVRC.

Secrist noted a convention center indeed would be a catalyst to sales-tax revenue generation, and Zemler detailed how Boulder’s market share peaked in the early 1990s and has declined significantly since. Lodging sales are also on a downward trend.

The only item of contention BURA commissioners agreed upon was that the University of Colorado would not chip in. Zemler said he would continue discussions with CU, but the university’s master plan shows a meeting facility at Williams Village, a university-owned site in South Boulder.

“I’m glad to hear that (discussions with CU aren’t) completely dead, because they are a major player,´ said Rich Lopez, council member and ex-officio member of BURA.

BURA commissioner and council member Spense Havlick, who voted against spending the $10,000, said the funding proposal failed to meet the criteria of BURA “on several counts” because the city wants primarily to reduce congestion, stabilize its economy and promote affordable housing. “This does not address the multiple goals that the community has,” Havlick said.

He suggested the $10,000 should go toward commuter rail and that there were plenty of capable people in the room who could do as good a job saying whether a convention center was viable as the $40,000 consultant.

Lopez noted that earlier in the evening BURA voted to spend $53,000 to improve three bus stops, $38,000 to support the construction of the Scott Carpenter skateboard park and $10,300 to buy furniture for community meeting space at Crossroads. He said $10,000 for a feasibility study that would answer a lot of questions was well worth the money. For one, he said, it would be useful to compare with Macerich’s study, which was said to be flawed because it did not take into account the hotel planned for Ninth Street and Canyon Boulevard, and it underestimated CU numbers.

Secrist said the rationale for asking BURA for the money was that the BVRC — notably Crossroads in a later phase of redevelopment — was a likely site for a convention center.

Sally Martin, throwing her support behind the study, said the impact of Broomfield’s 1.5 million-square-foot regional shopping mall, FlatIron Crossing, could not be ignored.

“And I don’t think any of us really realizes what it’s going to be until they open the doors,” she said.

BOULDER — After unusually pragmatic and abbreviated discussion, the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority (BURA) voted 4-1 in September to commit $10,000 toward a $40,000 study that would help determine whether a convention center would be viable here.

The money would come out of BURA’s operating budget, which is $301,077 for 1999.

Now Stan Zemler, president and chief executive officer of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce — the catalyst behind the proposed study — will hear whether the Boulder City Council will chip in another $10,000. The council is expected to discuss the matter in October.

The chamber, through the Boulder Convention and Visitors…

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