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Poloncarz, Kaler outline next steps in convention center discussion

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Thu, Mar 14th 2019 01:25 pm

Public comment period reveals substantial support for state-of-the-art convention center

Request for Proposals to be released to assess engineering perspectives, refine overall cost estimates at both sites

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, to discuss the findings of the recent 90-day public comment period on the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center market analysis and feasibility study (released in September 2018), and to outline next steps in the convention center process. During the public comment period, 668 distinct responses were received with many focused on the question, “Based on the results of the study, should we invest in a strategic long-term plan that would help to create a state-of-the-art convention center for Buffalo and Erie County?” In total, 86 percent of respondents were in favor of such an investment.

Poloncarz said, “The public comment period revealed that the vast majority of respondents are in favor staying in the convention business and recognize the necessity of constructing a state-of-the-art convention center to do so. While only a small portion of respondents chose a preferred site, it is clear a majority of respondents are in favor of investing in such a new convention center on whichever site that might be. This was an essential first step and, bolstered by this information, we will be taking the next step and issuing a request for proposals to assess both sites from an engineering perspective.”

An RFP to study both sites will be issued later in March and will encompass historical reviews, utility inventory and analysis at both sites, and a comprehensive scoping of pre-construction needs. The RFP will also comprehensively assess the condition of the current Buffalo Niagara Convention Center while exploring the feasibility of different expansion scenarios there. The engineering assessment is expected to continue until late 2019.

“We’re encouraged to learn that the majority of Erie County residents are overwhelmingly in support of remaining in the convention industry and agree that doing nothing is not an option,” Kaler said. “We’re looking forward to working with the county to identify the best next steps for the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center’s future and ensure that meetings and conventions remain a growing piece of the region’s tourism industry for decades to come.”

Of the 668 distinct responses received in the public comment period, 66 percent were City of Buffalo residents or business owners, while 30 percent were Erie County residents or business owners located outside of Buffalo. Finally, 13 percent of respondents were employed in the hospitality industry, and 13 percent were convention center customers or users.

Of the 86 percent of respondents favoring investment in a state-of-the-art convention center, 64 percent said they had no preference on either site, 25 percent favored the HSBC lot site, and 11 percent favored an expanded Buffalo Niagara Convention Center site.

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