It has also sparked questions from readers who wanted more details about the proposal to build either a bigger-and-better Buffalo Niagara Convention Center at its current location or a new convention center on property near Canalside.
Digital Engagement Editor Qina Liu collected questions from readers about the costs, whether it would be tied to a potential new football stadium and why consultants didn't recommend a location in the suburbs.
From @HoveyKid on Twitter: Who will pay for it? What effect will it have on my property taxes as a city resident? What areas within government can we look at to reduce spending to help offset the cost?
From @wbw4th on Twitter: How much is it gonna cost? Who's gonna pay for it?
From Sheri L. Smith: And there's talk of relocating the Bills? Where is all this money coming from?
A: The preliminary cost estimates for a new convention center range from $329 million to $368 million, if the convention center were located a site near Canalside, KeyBank Center and HarborCenter. The estimate is $350 million to $429 million if the convention center stays where it is, but is renovated and expanded to incorporate part of the Statler building and the entire block just north of the Statler.
The site near Canalside would cost less because it would be built on undeveloped land. Currently, that entire area is paved parking lots, including one used by The Buffalo News. In addition, the old convention center building could be sold to help finance construction of a new one.
Since there is still no final location or price tag for a new convention center, it's too early to answer these questions with specifics. Even so, inevitably some of the cost would likely be borne by local taxpayers. County leaders are hopeful the state would contribute money toward the project, as it has in other cities, and County Executive Mark Poloncarz has mentioned raising the hotel bed tax or even creating a special taxing district as possible ways to help finance a new facility.
From Jeanine Baran: What will happen to the old one?
A: That depends on where a new convention center is finally located. One option would keep the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center exactly where it is, but expand its footprint significantly. In that case, the current convention center building would be overhauled and remain in operation. If other site is chosen, the old convention center would likely be sold.
From @db716 on Twitter: Have the county exec and other leaders read the innumerable studies showing convention centers are awful investments of public dollars?
A: As noted in Sunday's story, some have spoken out against the need for a new convention center, questioning whether the economic impact of a convention center outweighs the public cost to build one. Poloncarz is aware that the question of a new convention center is controversial one, which is why he's asking the public to offer online comments about whether Erie County should remain in the convention business. The link to leave comment between now and Dec. 19 is erie.gov/conventioncenter.
From Jer Lewis: When was the last large national convention that was held in Buffalo? Anyone remember any convention with over 500 people? Buffalo can’t compete with other cities for these events.
A: Since 2016, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center has hosted 27 conventions with more than 500 people, including 17 conventions with 1,000 attendees or more, according to data provided by Visit Buffalo Niagara President Patrick Kaler. Most, though not all, have been state and regional conventions. The most recent national convention that attracted public attention was the National Homeland Security Conference last year, which brought in 1,300 convention-goers.
From Shelley Culver Wos: I just do not understand why everything must be at Canalside. Sure, let’s make the waterfront profitable, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to go there.
From @KevinBoniszewsk on Twitter: Any chance we could tie it into the the Bills stadium project? The Canalside location would be my choice.
A: Poloncarz said there has been no active discussion with the Bills owners about tying a new convention center to a new Bills stadium, but it also does not preclude the possibility. The convention center feasibility study conducted by HVS Consulting offers two site recommendations for a new convention center, one of which is near Canalside, but the consultants were not asked to consider the impact of an adjacent Bills stadium.
The site recommendation near Canalside is promising because it is a large, undeveloped property in the downtown area with excellent vehicle access. But it also has downsides, too, like the fact that limited hotel, restaurant and entertainment offerings are located there now.
From Tony Fracasso: Why not in the suburbs? Like right next to the airport, near shopping, near a golf course and train station?
A: When event planners consider a convention center location, they also consider how many hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and entertainment options are within easy walking distance for their convention participants to enjoy. The site recommendation that would expand the existing convention center footprint is considered attractive because it is within a few minutes' walk of eight hotels and more than 50 bars and restaurants.