Planners Plead for Repairs

San Francisco Council Seeks Moscone Center Renovation

Fixer-upper: The Moscone CenterSan Francisco’s Customer Advisory Council, a body of 40 professional meeting planners responsible for a significant volume of group business at the Moscone Center, has threatened to take their meetings elsewhere unless much-needed repairs to the convention facility are attended to immediately.

In March, the council sent a letter to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom strongly urging the city to dedicate $5.8 million to repairing the center’s aging North (opened in 1992) and South (1981) buildings. (Moscone West, the newest addition to the center, opened in 2003.)

CAC members believe the city needs to improve its convention facility in order to stay competitive. According to Cele Fogarty, vice president of convention and trade show services for Chicago-based SmithBucklin Corp. and a CAC member, “They’ve talked about it for a while, but they haven’t done anything about it. Since we’ve been around long enough to witness the changes over the years, we know there’s a big difference from what it used to be.”

Though the occupancy rate at Moscone is at a healthy 79 percent (the facility has approximately 700,000 square feet of exhibit space), Fogarty remembers the more prosperous, pre-9/11 years. “It used to be a great, flexible space -- a premier center,” she said. “Now the city is falling a bit behind.”

The CAC’s recommendation is to replace the air walls in the Esplanade Ballroom, Hall E, and the East and West Mezzanine Rooms, as well as to upgrade the center’s air-ventilation system.

Joe D’Alessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, believes the group’s concerns will be taken seriously. “The mayor heard them loud and clear, and he’s committed to improving the center, but it’s difficult to say if it will happen in the next few months,” he said.

The bureau estimates that the center’s economic impact for the 2007 fiscal year was $790 million. All parties agree that if repairs are not made, that number could decline.