Begich backs new Anchorage civic center

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Anchorage needs and will get a new downtown civic center to attract big conventions and big-spending tourists, Mayor Mark Begich told industry leaders Thursday.

Supporters for the new center have said Anchorage has outgrown the Egan Civic and Convention Center and is missing out on hosting larger, more profitable events.

Voters in April 2002 defeated a hotel and motel bed tax increase that would have funded the new center.

Begich told the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau that voters will be more receptive if they have a concrete plan to look at and a better understanding of it.

''There is no question in my mind that a new convention center is needed now,'' Begich said. ''With you, I supported the effort that the voters turned down last year. But we cannot be discouraged. The time is right and we need to move forward.''

Supporters for the center previously erred by taking the proposal to the ballot before it was fully developed and failing to engage residents in the process, Begich said. This time around, he wants the public to be involved from the start.

No decision has been made on what the center might look like or where it would go. One location, the east end of the Anchorage Fifth Avenue mall, is gone, home to the new U.S. Forest Service building.

One alternative is building a 280,000-square-foot facility in the Ship Creek district, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Bruce Bustamante, president of the ACVB, said there are other options. Two sites downtown could incorporate the new center with the existing Egan, he said.

Bustamante would not identify specific properties. He said that at those two sites, sky bridges could link the new building to the Egan. Using both centers would mean the new one could be smaller and cheaper to build, Bustamante said.

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