|By Karen Robinson-Jacobs, The Dallas
Morning NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 24, 2011--Dallas has attracted nearly 50 meetings and conventions since hosting some of the nation's top convention planners last year, the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau said this week.
The gatherings, scheduled for 2012 through 2016, stem directly from Dallas' hosting of the Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting in January 2010, the CVB said. The influx could mean more than $100 million in direct spending at hotels, restaurants and retail shops, the bureau said.
At least 14 of the 48 planned meetings and conventions are expected to be "citywides," gatherings that use at least 2,500 hotel rooms on the peak night. Those events are most sought after because they put heads in beds throughout downtown.
The planned gatherings will bring representatives from 31 companies and associations to Dallas, using 205,552 room nights, the bureau said. Some groups will come more than once. More than half of the bookings represent new revenue to Dallas.
PCMA attendees who hadn't visited Dallas in years "witnessed a new city that is vibrant, visitor-friendly, centrally located and reasonably priced," said Phillip Jones, president and chief executive of the CVB. Since the PCMA meeting, he said, "bookings for future years have been strong, ranging from regional meetings with 40 projected attendees to citywides."
Many of those citywide gatherings will make their headquarters in the new city-owned Omni Dallas Hotel, which is attached to the convention center and is set to open Nov. 11.
At least 102 conventions have been booked at the Omni Dallas so far, and more than half -- 55 -- will use space in the convention center, said Ed Netzhammer, regional vice president of Irving-based Omni Hotels and Resorts.
More business for the convention center, which boasts 1 million square feet of exhibit space, "creates more operating income for the center and greater capability to pay its debts," said A.C. Gonzalez, assistant city manager.
In 2009, the city of Dallas issued $324.94 million in 30-year "revenue refunding and improvement bonds" for the convention center. More than $260.03 million was used to pay off existing debt, while $60.05 million went for capital improvements, including the addition of about 20,000 square feet of meeting space and renovations to existing meeting space.
The outstanding debt was $324.1 million as of early June.
Gonzalez noted that more convention center business also helps fill hotel rooms, "which creates more hotel occupancy tax and alcohol beverage tax" revenue. Both are used to pay off the center's debt, he said.
Whether any increased revenue would help retire that debt sooner "is a question for the future that would depend on economic circumstances at that time," he said.
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