Friday, March 02, 2012

Gov. Cuomo's Queens Convention Center Plan Takes Flak From Trade Show Industry

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated his intention to pave the way for Genting International to build a new and larger convention center at its Aqueduct casino facility, lots of people perked up. While everyone understands that there are serious limitations with the Javits Center on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, the idea that the City would raze the site and open it up for redevelopment in favor of a new convention center in the far reaches of Queens sounded farfetched.

Now comes word that the very trade show industry that would be users of whichever facility exists, actually wants to stay at the Javits Center.
They pointed to the risk that the trade-show industry faces if the plan first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January also results in tearing down the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and building a smaller trade show center in Manhattan.

“The jury is out in my mind on this project,” said Carl Weisbrod, a clinical professor of real estate at New York University and a board member of the Convention Center Development Corp., the state-run entity responsible for the on-going renovation of the Javits Center.

“It seems to me,” Mr. Weisbrod said, addressing Mr. Goode, “that your facility will cannibalize a public facility.”

A major fear for the meetings industry is that the Queens project will upend a decades-old system of doing business at Javits, alienating show producers and attendees who may defect to other cities as a result.

“If Javits were torn down and I had a big show in New York, I would consider moving it to another city, such as Philadelphia, before I'd consider Aqueduct,” said Jeff Little, the former president and owner of George Little Management, a major tradeshow producer. Mr. Little recently formed a new company after last year's purchase of GLM by Providence Equity Partners.

Genting also faced critics who say that building a large convention center does not make sense when so many mega centers across the country are struggling to book shows.

Over the last decade there has been an enormous decline of attendees at conventions, said Steven Malanga, senior fellow at Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. What's more, he said that just 27% of the 2.3 million people who attended shows at Javits last year were from out of town.

“The rest were day-trippers,” he said. Genting, he predicted, won't be able to attract large trade shows because the industry is simply not growing.
There are long term trends within the convention industry that work against building a new and larger facility, including the fact that bookings are down and large centers are struggling to find events. That hasn't been an issue with the Javits Center, despite the Center's deficiencies.

Some of those issues are being resolved in a major refurbishment and small expansion project to the north side of the main halls.

The MTA is busy expanding the 7 Line to the Javits Center, which is a major boost for transit connectivity. The Aqueduct site lacks any appreciable transit and that means that convention-goers would have a hard time getting around since there are few other tourist destinations near the Ozone Park location. The Javits Center is a short walk to Times Square and other major landmarks - a key to luring tourists and convention planners. While airport access may be seen as a bonus for a Queens convention center, even that's relatively limited and Genting has thus far not committed to paying for transit connections that would improve transit in the area.

I'd say that Cuomo's plans are likely to stall, especially now that trade show organizations are suggesting that they want to keep the Javits where it is.

No comments: