Convention center up in the air
We've heard about a new convention center in Albany for years now, but when will shovels finally hit the ground? As our Solomon Syed reports, it is not getting any closer and the wait is testing local leader's patience.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- When city leaders unveiled a full-scale model of the proposed Albany Convention Center last year, they thought they would be breaking ground within two years. Instead, that's the closest the city has gotten to constructing anything related to the project.
"I've become frustrated, yes," admitted Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings.
Jennings revealed for the first time that the city is going back to the drawing board. The empty lots purchased downtown would cost $220 million to build up, which is too expensive.
"Let's re-evaluate where we were five years ago, and let's see where we are now, it's 2012, let's put together a plan," said Jennings.
Original plans called for 297,500 square-feet of space. One idea might involve expanding the Times Union Center and facilities in the Empire State Plaza to offset room that would be lost if there's only enough money for a smaller convention hall.
"It can't hurt to take a look and say 'Bring the right players together,' and have a serious conversation with the Cuomo administration," said Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber President Mark Egan.
More than $60 million has been set aside for the project, but that was from previous administrations.
"We all understand the need," said Michele Vennard, the county's Convention and Vistors Bureau President. "Where does it stand now? Obviously squarely in the governor's lap."
Supporters of the convention center project say they city can't hope to attract elite expos and sporting events unless this mish-mash of vacant buildings and parking lots gets developed.
"The NCAA [tournament], if we wanted to bid on that again, they're going to be looking for additional hotel space," said Vennard. "The women's tournament carries a trade show."
Now the city must figure out ways to get more public and private funding if it wants its dream to become a reality.
"I'm sick of waiting for the shovel to hit the ground, I want things to happen and that's what we're going to work on," said Jennings.
Governor Cuomo has been non-committal on a new convention center. A spokesperson for his administration did not reply to an e-mail for comment.