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CONVENTION CENTER FACE-LIFT
COUNTY TO SPEND MORE ON RENOVATION TO ATTRACT BOOKINGS

A $4 million face-lift inside the Buffalo Convention Center is being credited with helping to attract 42 events for 2003, with an estimated economic impact of more than $26 million.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra was so pleased with the results of the money the county spent, he stopped by the building Monday to announce another $1.5 million for renovations next year.

"Not a bad return on investment for a paltry $4 million investment," Giambra said about the future bookings.

Some of the 42 events scheduled next year are annual traditions, such as the Buffalo Auto Show in February and the Buffalo Home & Garden Show in March.

One convention center user said the renovations have improved the center's competitive position in the meeting industry.

"The session rooms are beautiful. There's a world of difference now. The acoustics, the ceilings, the aesthetics are all better," said Amy Perry-Delcorvo, event planner for the New York State Association for Computers and Technology.

Her association's 4-day, statewide event wraps up today. The technology trade show brought 1,500 attendees to downtown Buffalo.

Local officials lined up between the Cisco Systems and Apple Computer exhibits Monday to highlight the importance of the travel and tourism industry to the region's economy.

Giambra put long-debated plans for a new convention center in Buffalo on the back burner during his "state of the county" address in February, but he said Monday a new center remains an option.

Giambra said he is talking with Niagara County leaders about a regional convention center.

"We can't compete against each other. If there's going to be a new convention center, we need to decide whether its going to be here or there (in Niagara County)," Giambra said.

The former Niagara Falls Convention Center is being turned into a casino by the Seneca Nation. The state plans to spend $12 million converting the former Falls Street Fair building in Niagara Falls into a transitional convention center.

Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau President Richard Geiger said money spent on travel and tourism marketing produces a big economic impact.

"The dollars spent by conventioneers and tourists, those are new dollars, and it's new dollars that build a region's economy," Geiger said.

In addition to the convention center business, large events planned for other regional facilities next year will have an additional estimated impact of $29 million. Topping the list of special events is the NCAA Frozen Four, the college ice hockey national championship, at HSBC Arena in April.

Economic impact is calculated based on standard industry figures for event spending.

The International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus has determined average spending on lodging, food and all other expenses for a conventioneer is $814 per stay.

The National Association of Sports Commissions pegs average spending for athletes and travel companions for amateur sporting events at $125 per person each day.

The Buffalo Niagara CVB has had a good sales year in the wake of the travel slowdown following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

Events booked through October will use 103,281 hotel room nights in 2003. By comparison, events booked through October of 2001 generated demand for 54,533 room nights this year.

The $1.5 million in additional county money will be used for further upgrades to the lounges, corridors and mechanical systems in the Buffalo Convention Center.

Perry-Delcorvo hopes the Buffalo Niagara CVB will use part of the money to install a high speed, wireless network inside the building.

"It's very important that they get the high-speed, wireless access. We run this conference all digitally. There's no paper. Everything is done on hand-held computer. We've had to build our own wireless network inside the building just to have this event here," she said.

e-mail: cbridger@buffnews.com

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