|Construction crews broke ground July 31 on Spokane Convention Center's newest addition, a 91,000-sq. foot expansion expected to bring as many as 800 new jobs to the area.
"We're expecting to see 400 construction jobs (on the site) and 400 continuing jobs after the project opens in 2014," said Kevin Twohig, CEO of Spokane's Public Facilities District (PFD), which operates the convention center.
Continuing jobs are the result of hotel, restaurant and real estate expansion that could result from the convention center's growth, as well as new jobs in the facility itself.
The project is estimated to cost $55 million and expected to be completed in late 2014. Benefits will far outweigh the cost, according to Cheryl Kilday, President and CEO of Visit Spokane.
"With the new building, three groups will be able to be in house at the same time and not cross paths," Kilday said.
The current space can house multiple groups, but conventions have to coordinate times to share space like exhibit and meeting halls. The expansion will change that, adding new entry points and additional exhibit space. Additionally, the changes will allow Visit Spokane to book shows it had to pass up before due to space limitations, as well as continue to book shows with growing audiences.
"We'll be able to go after some shows that are close to outgrowing us," Kilday said.
||Kilday and Twohig both felt the expansion enjoyed broad public support from the public because of the potential additional tourism dollars it could bring.
"They understand the convention center can be (an) economic engine that brings out of town dollars to Spokane," Kilday said. "It helps elevate our standing as a city."
The expansion is taking place in a brownfield area extremely close to the Spokane River. Because the area is environmentally sensitive, the PFD is taking extra precautions with the construction project, including working with the Department of Ecology on a voluntary cleanup plan. The current convention center boasts an environmental silver LEED rating, and is one of only three convention centers in the United States to achieve this rating.
One of Spokane's community culture indicators is the number of convention delegates booked by Visit Spokane, tracked in Indicator 2.13. Booked delegates have steadily increased since we began tracking this indicator in 2005, going from approximately 650,000 to more than 1 million in 2012, for a total increase of 55 percent. Visitors to the Spokane Convention Center are often first-time visitors, whose experiences may lead them to relocate family or business to the area, or return for future vacation time, increasing Spokane's stream of tourism dollars and hospitality economy.