Well, yet again, the issue of expanding the convention center and opening a new arena has come up and now city officials are saying the need for a new arena and expanded convention center is demonstrated by the departure of Otakon which according to D.C., they expect an estimated $25 million in annual revenue going to the District and over 30,000 visitors over the period of 5 years (2017-2021) which means a total of an estimated $125 million lost to Baltimore's economy over a 5 year period which is quite significant in my eyes and over 30,000 visitors lost for Baltimore during those five years. This is very angering that Baltimore is losing its largest convention just because we've neglected our convention center.
Here's an op-ed I just submitted to the Baltimore Sun regarding the issue which I hope will be published, if it's not published, well readers of The Sun will be able to read it here:
I have been a Baltimore resident for 27 years and I'm angry that Baltimore's largest convention is moving out of Baltimore (after being in Baltimore for 15 years since 1999) and into D.C. starting in 2017 and lasting until at least 2021, a total of five years, D.C. is estimating Otakon will bring the District at least $25 million in annual revenue for the District and over 30,000 attendees annually, that's a total of an estimated $125 million lost to Baltimore's economy over a 5 year period which is quite significant in my eyes and over 30,000 visitors lost for Baltimore.
I've been attending Otakon since 2001 and have seen it grow to the current size it is now which is 34,100 and the event has grown to the point that it cannot add anymore events that organizers and attendees want and the attendance is simply becoming too much for the Baltimore Convention Center and the Hilton Hotel can handle which is the reason why Otakon announced they are moving to the more modern and larger Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C. starting in 2017.
The Baltimore Sun article published on August 16, 2013 ("Baltimore tourism business steady, but Otakon's exit points to future challenges") talks about our tourism business and focuses on the loss of Otakon and if we are to remain competitive in the convention market, we need a new arena and expanded convention center.
City officials have stated publicly that our economy is supposed to be tourism-based and most of our money as a city is supposed to be coming from conventions and visitors. Most of our visitors currently comes to Baltimore as a convention attendee from my understanding. Special events such as the Grand Prix and Artscape has a regional and national draw but certain conventions such as Otakon has an international draw.
I'm writing this op-ed piece to ask fellow Baltimoreans do you indeed support the Greater Baltimore Committee's 2010 proposal to build a new arena connected to a new hotel that will be connected to an expanded east-half of the Baltimore Convention Center?
Because if our economy is truly supposed to be tourism-based, our city should be making investments and spending the big bucks on the Baltimore Convention Center and constructing a new arena because the convention center and arena are two very integral and vital parts of the tourism-based economic puzzle for Baltimore and a 2012 Maryland Stadium Authority commissioned feasibility study has indeed shown that a new arena and expanded convention center is needed in order to remain competitive and it would spur economic growth.
It's frustrating and even angering to me as a city resident that the only thing that's hanging up $2.5 million from the state to conduct an expanded study that would focus on construction and planning for the proposed arena, hotel and expansion is a funding plan for the whole project. I completely understand it'll cost a sizable amount of public money but look at the long term ramifications of this project, thousands more visitors coming to conventions at the Baltimore Convention Center, thousands more visitors coming to events at the new arena, these visitors translates into vastly increased economic impact to the city and would greatly bolster our economy so those are reasons why I support this proposal as a city resident and would like to see a funding plan more quickly conducted and approved.
We need a renovated and expanded convention center, the need has become crystal clear in my opinion with the loss of Otakon. Otakon officials left the door open for a potential return to Baltimore but that return is contingent on if the city can get an expansion and renovation started on the Baltimore Convention Center in time before Otakon's 5 year contract with D.C. expires. Otakon Staff wants to return to Baltimore, the staff did not want to leave Baltimore. If Otakon can return to Baltimore in 2022, it will benefit Baltimore even more since it would grow in D.C. and having an estimated 40,000-50,000+ people in Baltimore would have an immense economic impact and only that is possible through an expansion to our convention center.