We Dallasites love our city’s dazzling skyline, entertainment districts and business acumen. But a closer look at some of our benchmarks shows that sometimes the reality doesn’t match our bluster, and it hurts our ability to attract tourism dollars.
The city’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is losing business because it’s been poorly maintained over the decades, with addition after addition stitched onto what has become a sprawling monstrosity that nonetheless lacks enough meeting rooms and of ballroom space. The desolate concrete beige that surrounds it is the opposite of a welcome mat.
And there’s Fair Park, home to the tallest Ferris wheel in Texas and one of the largest collections of Art Deco buildings and artwork in the world. It’s a national treasure in our own backyard. Yet we neglected it, leaving the fairgrounds to lie lifeless most of the time and its famous architecture to crumble. Dallas residents and visitors should enjoy Fair Park year-round.
Dallas City Hall has a plan to transform the convention center and Fair Park, and the mechanism it wants to use has already been successful. We urge Dallas residents to vote yes on Proposition A, which would allow the city to fund much-needed improvements to Fair Park and the Convention Center.
Voting yes would not raise taxes for residents, but would increase the resort tax that hotel and motel users pay by 13% to 15%. This modest increase allows Dallas hotels to remain competitive with those in neighboring cities and would raise $1.5 billion in public funds over 30 years. This money would be used to pay off bonds that would fund the reconstruction of the convention center and the modernization of parts of Fair Park.
Structures in Fair Park that would benefit from improvements are the Automobile Building, Centennial Building, Band Shell, Music Hall, Cotton Bowl, and Coliseum.
Most of the money raised, however, would go to the convention center, which has at least half a billion dollars in maintenance needs. Its roof is in such disrepair that Dallas spends $1 million every year trying to catch leaks when it rains. Rosa Fleming, director of convention and event services for the city, said Dallas sometimes loses booking opportunities because it can’t host two conventions at the same time, unlike some of its competitors.
Rebuilding the convention center makes the most sense. This would allow Dallas to design a building that better connects to the rest of downtown Dallas and provides a worthy anchor for an entertainment and business district.
The funding mechanism that underpins the projects is envisioned in a state law called the Brimer Bill that allows tax revenue from hotels to fund convention centers, sports arenas and entertainment centers. It was used to pay for the American Airlines Center.
A refreshed convention center and revitalized fairgrounds will do wonders for our city and our businesses. We urge Dallas voters to say yes.
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