DALLAS — If anybody knows the convention business, it’s former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
Rawlings says Dallas has always found itself a level below top-tier convention destinations such as Las Vegas and Chicago because of its convention center and facilities.
“There’s been probably 1,000 conventions a year we can’t qualify for,” Rawlings said on Inside Texas Politics.
Rawlings is among the many prominent supporters of “Prop A” in Dallas, which, if voters approve, would renovate Fair Park and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Supporters claim the $1.5 Billion project would be financed through a “tourist tax,” a 2% increase in the city’s hotel occupancy tax.
And Rawlings says a state-of-the-art convention center would allow them to compete with any city in the country. That expansion will take up an estimated $1.2 Billion of the project, leaving some $300 Million for the Fair Park renovations.
“When you look at what this is going to be able to do for not only the convention business, but this part of town, 30 acres around it, plus Fair Park is a big part of this, the returns are going to be fabulous,” the former mayor said.
If voters approve the project, Dallas will actually be out of the convention business for a while as the existing convention center is torn down and rebuilt. Rawlings says “huge parts” of it will be demolished.
The convention business, he says, currently contributes $200 Million in economic development to the city every year. So, Dallas’ bottom line could take a hit during the transition.
But Rawlings says many those jobs and those dollars will shift, at least temporarily, to the ambitious project itself.
“What is going to be happening at that time is we’re going to be shifting for other sort of work. Fifty thousand to 100,000 jobs are going to be created while we’re building this,” he told us.
There’s still no clear timeline for when the project might start if voters say yes.
Election Day is Nov. 8.