VANCOUVER, WA-The City of Vancouver’s planned Downtown convention center would lose at least $500,000 in its first year of operation and slowly shrink that figure to $350,000 by its fifth year of operation, according to a city consultant’s analysis released earlier this week.

Steve Burdick, the city’s manager of economic development services, says the numbers are not a surprise. Indeed, he tells that $1.8-million in annual funding is in place not only to cover the annual operating losses but also to pay off the bonds that will be used to construct the facility and an associated hotel, which together would cost about $60 million.

The only variable at the moment is how big the convention center will be. Originally envisioned as an 80,000-sf facility, the plans are down to 60,000 sf and may shrink form there, as the $20 million budget for constructing the building may have to cover design and construction of a sky bridge or tunnel between the two facilities, which will be separated by railroad tracks.

After sending out a request for proposals for the hotel and convention center project, the city last month chose the Port of Vancouver’s plan to have the city replace the Port’s 150-room Inn at the Quay on the Columbia River with a 300- to 350-room convention center hotel and build the convention center, which would seat 1,100 in its main hall, on the other side of the railroad tracks in the Esther Short Park area. Development is expected to begin in 2003.

The city would own both facilities and they would be operated by West Coast Hotels, which holds a long-term lease to operate the Inn at the Quay property. Burdick says the city has asked the Port to take on developing the connection between the facilities lest it have to come out of the construction budget, which would mean the size of the conference center would have to shrink again. The budget for the center dropped from closer to $24 million earlier this year after no bids were received for naming rights to the facility.

Construction debt and ongoing operation of the convention center will be covered by three revenue sources: the city and the county’s .033 percent sales tax rebate for developing new public facilities and the city’s 2% hotel-motel tax.

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