While the tourism
community has been pushing for a renovation and new
ballroom for the 17-year-old Miami Beach Convention Center, some
charge that city leaders are not backing the plan.
“Elected officials are not supportive,”
said Stuart Blumberg, president and CEO of the Greater Miami &
The Beaches Hotel Association. “I don’t understand why they don’t
want to improve an asset that will bring in more money.” Blumberg
believes Miami Beach has lost $1 billion in convention business
because the one million-square-foot center has not been renovated
since it was built.
Hilda Fernandez, assistant city manager
for Miami Beach, claims the center has not lost business, but
rather, “We aren’t in the market for large, Las Vegas-sized
conventions.” She and other Miami Beach tourism officials are
optimistic about the future of convention business, she said, with
more than $1 billion in hotel renovations at the Fontainebleau and
Eden Roc resorts under way, and they are not ruling out a future
expansion of the convention facility.
For his part, William Talbert,
president and CEO of the Miami Beach Convention & Visitors
Bureau, said, “The center absolutely needs a new 50,000-square-foot
ballroom.” A meeting set for late February was intended to bring
together city, county and tourism officials to hash out a long-term
plan to keep the center competitive, Talbert said.
Meanwhile, in January, Miami-Dade
county commissioners passed a nearly
$3 billion package that will build a new stadium and renovate the
Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, as well as build a new
port tunnel and a downtown park.