- Three development teams have submitted bids for a new convention center in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, and the priciest could see costs of $1.2 billion, according to The Florida Times-Union. The three bidders, which submitted proposals to the city in August and presented them to a development committee this week, are Jacobs Project Management, a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering; Preston Hollow Capital LLC; and Rimrock, Devlin, DeBartolo Jacksonville LLC.
- The city set forth requirements, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record, that the bidders include in their plans a 350-room convention hotel, 1,700 parking spaces, at least 200,000 square feet of public exhibition space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, a minimum of 45 meeting rooms and a full-service restaurant. The Jacobs proposal would see the city pay $1.2 billion over 25 years, with the Jacobs team financing the project upfront and managing the facility. The city would be responsible for operating losses but share in the profits. The Rimrock team's plan would cost $936 million over 30 years, but passes on the responsibility and expense of operations to the city. The Preston Hollow group is asking the city to finance half of a $458 million project, but the evaluation committee is awaiting more details from the team.
- The city's Downtown Investment Authority will select its preferred development team on Sept. 19. City officials will then decide whether to build the new convention center on the site of an old county courthouse and city annex or near a planned $2.5 billion mixed-use sports complex proposed by the owner of the NFL's Jackson Jaguars team. More importantly, officials still have the ultimate say in whether a new convention center will be worth the cost.
Jacksonville joins other cities in trying to boost tourism and generate more tax revenue by luring big trade shows and other groups with modern exhibition space and meeting facilities, as well as an amenity-rich hotel within walking distance.
However, some experts told Successful Meetings that convention centers themselves aren't just about the size of meeting spaces. Groups are looking for an authentic, local look and experience and are also more interested these days in smaller breakout spaces, rooms for social gatherings and wireless connectivity. A more modern convention space can be achieved by building new, but a major renovation and expansion can also do the trick.
For example, an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center will cost about $935 million in construction and outfitting costs and add 600,000 square feet of exhibition space to the existing facility. Convention center officials expect the project will result in 600,000 additional attendees a year.