Reading about recent threats to withhold conventions and sporting events from Texas sites in retaliation against bills currently moving through the Texas legislature, I was reminded of concerns that I had heard surrounding the economics of the Dallas Convention Center. Just how much money are those conventions really worth to our city, and how much does the City make off of them? A quick search turned up an article in D Magazine, written 2 years ago by Wylie H Dallas, that addressed this issue specifically: The Convention Center That Ate Dallas. Other concerns notwithstanding, that doesn't appear, at least on the surface, to be much of a threat. The convention center is a pretty substantial drag on the city budget, a drag that is tolerated in the name of a positive economic impact for support businesses in Dallas.
Is that good enough? If the DCC is a loss-leader for a city strapped to pay for basic maintenance, what if we look at it differently? What would the economic impact be if we got out of the big convention business and allowed all that downtown acreage to be redeveloped as for-profit, property tax paying residential, office, commercial and retail use? A pretty blank slate for modern concepts for walkable, sustainable urban streets. After all, it's right next to the proposed high-speed rail station and very close to the hoped-for Trinity River Park. What if we used that, and maybe another highway deck, to stitch the Cedars back into the downtown urban fabric? Ala the I-345 idea.
What if we took some of the current DCC subsidy and used it to fix Fair Park where it could serve as our convention center? That is, after all, essentially what it was built to do and continues to do to this day. The size and types of conventions we would see would be different, but think of how much better their experience might be. (We may have to move fast on that idea, before someone fills up Fair Park with vertical farming or artist lofts or corporate call centers or something.)
I'll be sitting in my office, goofing off, looking out the window and daydreaming differently about the Convention Center from now on.