Los Angeles city leaders have long talked about the need to add more space to the convention center downtown. Those words haven't turned into action. But a new $1.2 billion proposal from AEG, the company that manages the convention center, could expand it for the first time in 20 years.
This week, entertainment and events company AEG sent city leaders an expansion proposal that would involve private and public money, including requests for tax incentives from the city.
If approved, the plan would put $500 million toward creating 350,000 square feet of convention space, bringing the the center's total square footage to 1.2 million square feet and giving event organizers 800,000 square feet of connected floor space to work with.
AEG's plan would include another $700 million for construction of an 850-room hotel building across the street, linked to the convention center's West Hall by a pedestrian bridge.
For years, the city tied expansion plans to the goal of bringing an NFL team to LA. The idea was to build a stadium on site that could double as convention floor space. When the Rams and then the Chargers decided to move to Inglewood, those plans were spiked.
Tourism officials say the economic value the convention center brings to the city has been growing in recent years, even at its current size. According to annual city reports, the convention center's economic impact totaled $781.6 million in fiscal year 2017, up from $548.4 million the year before.
The convention center has also been steadily attracting more of the big conferences that draw thousands of attendees from outside the city, filling hotel rooms and driving business to local restaurants. But the city says the convention center is still not attracting as many big events as they'd like.
"We do have lost business that totals almost $1 billion a year in economic impact," said Doane Liu, executive director of the Department of Convention and Tourism Development.
"There isn't a day that goes by where somebody contacts us, wants to come, but can't fit," he said.
Liu says event organizers are demanding more space, especially more connected space. And if Los Angeles doesn't provide that, they can turn to cities that have expanded their convention centers in recent years.
Some local officials are already on board with expansion efforts. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he would like to see a convention center expansion completed by 2022. City councilmen Curren Price and Joe Buscaino have tweeted support for AEG's proposal.