Erie County Exploring Feasability of New Convention Center

4:59 PM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO - Erie County officials say they would like to fund a feasability study to investigate the possibility of building new convention center space, an issue that the county and city of Buffalo have dealt with for several years.

Maria Whyte, the commissioner of the Enivronment and Planning Department, said the current convention center on Franklin Street, built in 1978, is not large enough to attract major conventions to the city. Therefore, Whyte and several of her county colleagues want to raise funding for a feasability study, estimated to cost about a half-million dollars.

Depending on the study's results, the county could then move ahead with plans.

But that's a long ways off.

"We'll just have to take it one step at a time," Whyte said.

Former Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski pushed for a project several years ago, but last decade, those plans for a larger convention center stalled. Drew Cerza, the former president of the Buffalo-Niagara Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said in retrospect, it may have been a financial mistake to build a new center.

Now, though, he says it could be one piece of the puzzle to attract tourists to Buffalo, along with improvements to hotels and transportation systems.

"The bottom line, if you get a new convention center, somebody's gotta sell it," Cerza said. "Somebody's gotta sell this thing."

But again, any plans for a convention center are in the distant future and depend on the feasibility study. Cerza argues he'd take preliminary steps even before that study.

"If you build it, will they come? I don't know," Cerza said. "But I think there are some local people who can give you some answers.


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