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SPOKANE, WA-Spurred by concerns the city will lose market share—and revenue dollars—if it cannot compete with larger facilities throughout the Northwest, Spokane has been pushing for expansion of its convention center. To better define the construction options available, the Spokane Public Facilities District (SPFD) this week selected a two-firm design team of Integrus Architecture PS and LMN Architects. Their initial marching orders are to complete site studies, preliminary designs–and the associated budgets for various options—by January.

A study updated in 2000 by the city’s consultant, Price Waterhouse Coopers, suggests Spokane needs to increase the 18,000-sf ballroom of its existing convention facilities to 30,000 sf, add 30,660 sf to its 6,840 sf of meeting space—and enlarge its exhibition areas to 125,000 sf.

Cost estimates for Price Waterhouse Coopers’ recommendations penciled out at $94.4 million. Kevin Twohig, executive director of the Spokane Public Facilities District (SPFD), tells GlobeSt, “We don’t know exactly how much money we will have (for the project). With funding sources available, I think the figure is likely to be closer to $80 million.”

Early last month, the Spokane City Council placed the project in the hands of the SPFD and pledged $30 million in sales-tax revenues toward it. The string attached is that construction must be under way by the end of 2002.

A county-wide vote will also be necessary before the SPFD’s commitment to the expansion is cast in stone. It remains to be seen if recent events and the ensuing nationwide drop-off in travel, tourism and convention-type events will impact the public’s vote on a ballot measure, which is expected to be ready by sometime next spring.

How and in what form expansion will ultimately come, says Twohig, will fall within the constraints of the funding available. “We’re in the due diligence phase,” he says, “We’re looking at community needs, finances, site options, concepts—all the various possibilities.”

The Public Facilities District is hoping the new design team can come up with viable options that will both meet the objective of drawing convention business, while remaining within the budgetary constraints.

Spokane-based Integrus Architecture has been in business for more than 50 years. Its projects have ranged from the local South Hill Public Library to the United States Embassy in Bogota, Columbia. LMN, founded in 1979, has designed more than 120 projects across the U.S. and six foreign countries–with an aggregate value of $1.5 billion. They include the Baltimore Convention Center Expansion, and the award winning Benaryoa Hall–home of the Seattle Symphony.

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