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Cart Before Convention Horse?

By Katie Taft · March 18th, 1999 · Burning Questions
It has been deemed a place that needs more space, and expansion proponents are pushing hard for the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center to get the extra space it needs.

Since 1994, studies and plans have been in the works to expand the convention center so it will be able to compete with other cities to attract the business and money more conventions could bring to the region.

The convention center now includes about 162,000 square feet of exhibition space and about 245,000 total square feet.

Since 1993, there have been several conventions that have outgrown the center, including the Performance Racing Expo and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.

A report by a consulting firm, unveiled on Feb. 23, recommends expanding the center from 245,000 square feet to 640,000. This possibly means building over Interstate 75, which the convention center borders.

Members of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending or Taxes are against the proposed expansion and presented their case to the Hamilton County commissioners on March 8. The group believes that the expansion will increase the burden these types of projects place on the taxpayer.

The city, Hamilton County leaders and the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau have teamed up to devise how they will get the needed $300 million-plus for the expansion. A public relations firm also has been hired to handle the convention center expansion campaign.

With all these elaborate plans to get money for the project and a public relations team working on touting to the public how much the expansion is needed, has the Ohio Department of Transportation been called in to study whether it's even possible to expand over Interstate 75?

"We met with the Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration officials three years ago when the original study was proposed to expand over the highway and recently to update them on that," said Mark McKillip, principal architect for the city of Cincinnati.

He said the city would be negotiating an air-rights agreement with the Federal Highway Administration that would permit the expansion to be built over the highway if the project moved forward.

"It actually has been done twice before with the Seattle convention center being built over a freeway, and a hall in Kansas City also has been built over a portion of the freeway that runs through that city," McKillip said.

He said that because a precedent had been set, it would be easier to implement the project.



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