SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento’s $350 million upgrade of the convention center, the attached theater and the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium are supposed to create thousands of jobs and bring in $22 million a year into city coffers.
Renovations at the convention center are just a month or two from being finished, but there is no guarantee that conventions will be held there once its doors are ready to open.
Thus far, Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t set a timeline for a return of conventions and large public gatherings.
As a result, Visit Sacramento CEO Mike Testa said he’s struggling to update groups that have booked their conventions sometimes years in advance.
“I can’t tell you yes there’s a good chance; I can’t tell ’em, ‘No, it’s not going to happen’ because we don’t know the timeline because there isn’t one,” Testa explained.
Restaurants were already hit hard when the convention center was closed for construction, some reporting losses of 40%. Then, the pandemic hit and some closed for good.
The Memorial Auditorium renovation was completed first, but it’s been silent for the past year. And instead of convention-goers, nearby restaurants serve construction workers who will finish their jobs soon.
Testa said convention competition is fierce, and California is the only state where there is no guidance for large meetings.
“Whether that’s 25% or 25 people, if it can’t happening in California, it’s going to happen somewhere else,” he said. “Meeting planners are just moving to other states.”
Convention-goers often spend extra days in the area with their families, meaning tourist business — including restaurants, bars and hotels — in the entire region also suffers.
Convention operators said their request is reasonable.
“We’re not asking that the convention center be open today; we’re asking for what that plan is,” Testa said.
Convention centers in the state have offered up some proposed guidelines for reopening, but so far, the governor has not responded to their concerns or has released a plan for when conventions might resume.