Group touts new convention center through ad blitz

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Advertisements are running in newspapers, and on radio and television, to promote a hike in the hotel tax to help pay for an estimated $100 million convention center.

The Anchorage Assembly is expected to decide Tuesday whether a 4 percent hotel tax hike should go on the April 2 ballot.

In addition to the ad campaign, the plan's backers have built a Web site, hired former city lobbyist Mitch Gravo and plan to send speakers to community councils and Rotary club meetings.

The group -- Anchorage Civic and Convention Center Yes -- has more than $300,000 to spend so far to promote a convention center big enough to hold the entire Egan Center in its main hall.

The proposal would raise the city's 8 percent hotel bed tax to 12 percent. The city would issue bonds to pay for most, but not all, of the center. The aim is to have it built by 2007.

Boosters say groups now are turned away because the Egan Center is either full or can't hold bigger conventions. A new, bigger center downtown or along lower Ship Creek would bring new restaurants, at least one hotel and construction work and could revitalize business neighborhoods.

Many Assembly members say they support putting the matter on the ballot. The current center is too small, says Janice Shamberg of South Anchorage.

In 2000, the city set aside $730,000 in hotel taxes to help run the Egan Center. It spent $242,638 and saved $487,362 for renovations. A new center would need $857,000 from the city in its first year and $667,000 in its fifth year, a 2001 feasibility study says.

More hotel tax revenue from increased convention business would make up for the increased cost of running a larger center, said Convention Center Yes director Jim Lottsfeldt.

Supporters expect the new center to draw up to 40,000 more convention goers a year.

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