by Jennifer Nicole Dienst | March 01, 2008

William Talbert


William Talbert

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.