As talk of a new convention center ramps up again in Erie County, it will be useful to consider two issues that could influence a decision on whether and where to build.
First is cost, which will run at least into the tens of millions of dollars and perhaps more than $100 million. The expense may well be worth it, given the significant economic impact a modern, functional convention center would have on a city with a rising national profile.
Rochester is considering a $100 million expansion of its current convention center. Erie County can do little to modernize its existing convention center. It needs to commit to a modern, new facility and should do it sooner rather than later.
Consider: Buffalo is already planning on spending tens of millions of dollars on a new train station that serves hardly a handful of travelers daily. If that can be done, with a major assist from Albany, there must be a way to invest in something that produces real economic benefit. The city recently lost a large convention because of the existing center’s deficiencies.
Second is location. That discussion should track discussions regarding a new football stadium, likely in downtown Buffalo. If a new convention center needs to be built before a new stadium, as seems likely, consideration should at least be given to their potential synergy. One should benefit the other, making more efficient use of space and ensuring that such a complex is used more than once a week in the fall.
That’s called thinking ahead, and it’s what Buffalo and Erie County need to be doing now.