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Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center expansion put on November ballot

Dallas city council members approved putting the measure on the ballot Tuesday, which would fund expanding the convention center and improvements at Fair Park.

DALLAS — Dallas residents will get to decide if they want a bigger convention center this November, as a resolution will be on the ballot to approve funding the expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

The special election, initiated by an ordinance passed by Dallas city council members during their Tuesday meeting, will also include funding for improvements to Fair Park. 

Should the resolution be approved, the expansion and improvements will be funded through a 2% hotel occupancy tax increase, tax revenue raised by local hotels and motels in the city, as allowed by the Brimer Bill. The tax would increase from 13% to 15% and is paid by individuals renting hotel rooms in Dallas. 

Councilmembers had previously voted in February to move forward on a plan regarding the downtown convention center, even possibly doing a total rebuild, with a potential total cost of up to $2 billion. The city previously said the move could double annual event attendance and yearly hotel stays. 

A presentation from Rosa Fleming, the city's director of convention and event services, cited a host of issues with the existing convention center: operational challenges from dated facilities and systems plus a lack of storage space and walkability options between various event spaces in the center.

The city's current "patch-and-repair" approach to maintaining the convention center has totaled $500 to $700 million in costs over the years, the presentation said.

Fleming's presentation said developing a "world-class convention center" could boost economic growth and better connect the complex to the rest of downtown.

The convention center, at 650 S. Griffin St., first opened in 1957. It was used last year as an Emergency Intake Site for unaccompanied young minor teens. It housed up to 2,300 boys between 13 and 17. 

The site came under some scrutiny last year due to the living conditions of the minors, who one staff member said were confined to one building and not allowed outside. It also acted as a site for overflow patients at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

   

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