SAN ANTONIO – A new bill that goes into effect this September is expected to keep San Antonio in the game for major events at the Alamodome and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for years to come.
State Sen. Jose Menendez authored Senate Bill 2220, which passed in this year’s legislative session and could lead to millions of dollars to upgrade and improve some of our biggest facilities.
“Senate Bill 2220 is just really a financial tool that the city of Dallas and Fort Worth have used to build new facilities to make them more competitive, in terms of bringing sporting events or bringing conventions and conferences to their cities,” Menendez said. “They’ve had about a two-year lead on us, and it allowed them to build some new facilities. San Antonio, Houston and other cities wanted to have the same tool and that’s what we did.”
The bill allows San Antonio to designate parts of the city as project finance zones. The designation makes it possible for the city to get tax rebates that would help fund the projects that expand tourism.
A zone around the Alamodome and convention center could bring in an estimated $222 million for improvements to those facilities.
“If we made additions to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, we could pursue 94 conferences that currently we are undersized for. What do those 94 conferences mean in terms of revenue? They mean an additional $921 million and another additional 1.7 million visitors,” Menendez said.
“We’re going to be able to bring more conventions and conferences. From the moment a new visitor touches down in our airport, they may stop at a locally owned restaurant or bookstore, buy something. The sales taxes they pay, everything they buy helps defray the costs for everything that we do in the city,” Menendez said.
David Gonzalez, vice president of media relations & communications at Visit San Antonio, said the organization testified in Austin to get the bill passed.
“San Antonio needed to make sure that it had a level playing field and able to expand our convention facilities and sports facilities, just like other cities have been able to using this type of funding method,” Gonzalez said. “Our message to the legislature was to tell them, we need to make this fair to be able to bring all these tax dollars because at the end of the day, what we’re talking about here is tax dollars and jobs coming to San Antonio.”
Since 2018, the Gonzalez Convention Center has missed out on more than $525 million because of its size, but Menendez hopes it could add about 200,000 square feet in the future.
“If we could add convention space to the our exhibit hall, then we could fit them in. We have enough hotel rooms, a great airport, all the things we need, but we just didn’t have enough exhibit room,” Menendez said.
“There are other larger shows not related necessarily to tourism, but related to other industries that we needed to have a larger convention center to attract them,” Gonzalez said. “Our belief is that the city will do its best to upgrade the Alamodome and expand the convention center using this state’s hotel occupancy tax dollars.”