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Cost to Expand and Renovate Riverside, California's 40-year-old Convention
Center Increases to $36 million, up from $25 million in January of 2011

By Alicia Robinson, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 23, 2011--The new estimated price tag to expand and renovate Riverside's nearly 40-year-old convention center is $36 million, city officials said.

The council will vote Tuesday on hiring Anaheim-based Turner Construction to design and build the project. It's expected to be finished by fall 2013.

In January, when the council agreed to seek proposals for the convention center project, the rough estimate to add 70,000 square feet and upgrade the existing 50,000 square foot facility was $25 million.

Now, more detailed plans would expand the facility by about 42,400 square feet, including a new ballroom and small meeting rooms; expand Ben Lewis Hall; add restrooms; create an outdoor military heritage plaza and amphitheater with a stage; and generally overhaul the existing convention center.

The council will vote later on how to finance the project, but it's likely about $6 million would come from redevelopment funds and the other $30 million would be borrowed.

The borrowed funds would be repaid by an increase to hotel bed taxes, which voters approved last fall. The city projects the additional hotel taxes would bring in about $2.5 million a year.

Officials have said the convention center is outdated and cramped and that it can't accommodate some kinds of events in its current state.

"I think it's one of the things that is going to help finally tip us over the edge to the bustling, vibrant downtown that we want to be," said Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown.

Turner's team includes architectural firm WWCOT, which has offices in Riverside. Gardner said Turner rose above the other bidders -- which included local firm Tilden-Coil Constructors and Bayley Construction, which handled the Fox theater renovation -- because its proposed cost was competitive and the firm has a good reputation for convention center projects.

Turner's website says the company built the Ontario convention center and headed expansions of centers in Long Beach and San Diego.

Riverside officials hope to finish renovations at the municipal auditorium so some conventions and meetings can be shifted there while the convention center is closed.

Gardner said the city hasn't abandoned some related plans -- turning the Mission Inn annex into a boutique conference center and building a stadium for sports and concerts -- but there's no funding for those projects and they're at least five to 10 years off.

Reach Alicia Robinson at 951-368-9461 or arobinson@PE.com

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To see more of The Press-Enterprise or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.pe.com.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.



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