"It's very cozy in San Diego," chuckles Heywood Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the nation's leading expert on convention centers. Sanders points out that when the San Diego convention center wanted to hype an expansion, it turned to Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, a firm with offices in metro Dallas and Minneapolis. When the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. wanted to show that the $300 million ballpark subsidy had been a success, it turned to -- you guessed it, Conventions, Sports & Leisure International. Even though the ballpark area still suffers from economic depression, the consulting firm delivered. Here are just a few of this firm's past findings: it said a baseball stadium in San Jose would give the local economy a $130 million boost; it said a new Minnesota Vikings stadium would create 13,400 jobs and boost the economy by $1.35 billion; it said a new convention center and luxury hotel would add $37 million a year to the Tucson economy (although politicians wondered where the $210 million cost would come from) and it told San Antonio to invest $200 million in its convention center. However, in the San Antonio case, the projection proved wildly off the market and city officials decided to hire another firm to get a more realistic assessment.
Despite the vast overbuilding of U.S. convention centers in recent years, the firm has provided counseling to centers in Anaheim, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.
The Union-Tribune was interviewing people about the study as early as Monday, but refused to provide the interviewees copies of the report. So they were commenting on something they had not seen. The U-T had two days to check out this report. Its reporters should have found that reputable economists have little good to say about the consulting firms who come up with such studies. I now have a copy of the report, and will start going over it today (Thursday).