Expanded hall brings revenue to Baltimore While we...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 15, 2002

Expanded hall brings revenue to Baltimore

While we applaud The Sun for consistently covering the tourism industry, it is important to take this opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions and highlight some significant points overlooked in the article "Baltimore built it; they didn't come" (June 2).

The total number of events and attendance at the Baltimore Convention Center are not the only measures of its success. By far, the most important measures of success are the tax revenues generated and jobs created as a result of the expansion. By these measures, the 1997 expansion has been a tremendous success.

For example, between fiscal 1997 and fiscal 2001, the Convention Center has attracted 187 conventions to Baltimore that would not have been able to convene here without the expansion. These 187 groups represent 781,500 out-of-town attendees who generated $877 million in direct spending and $1.7 billion in economic impact to the Baltimore region.

These groups represent meetings that required more than 115,000 square feet of exhibit space (the size of the original facility) and, therefore, would have been too large for Baltimore and passed us by.

And the expanded Convention Center has, in fact, met and exceeded the projections of the Economics Research Associates (ERA) study in a most important area -- the generation of tax revenue. The ERA study projected that in 2000 the expanded center would begin to generate $30.1 million annually in state and local taxes. In fact, in 2000 and 2001, the expanded center generated state and local taxes of $36.2 million and $32.9 million.

Indeed, at the current pace, the city and state will recoup in tax revenue alone their entire $151 million investment in the Convention Center expansion by 2005. And this doesn't take into consideration the real reason the center was expanded -- the 8,600 jobs created and the millions conventioneers spend in area restaurants, hotels, shops, attractions and other area businesses.

And indeed, the Convention Center is on track to meet its booking goals for the year 2007. While The Sun was correct to report that six conventions are confirmed for 2007, it failed to report that deals with another 12 groups are pending.

This will bring a potential 92,700 delegates to Baltimore and generate a potential 173,368 room nights (when people are actually in town and "heads are on beds").

And the business already generated for 2007 is normal, considering that business for Baltimore is generally booked three to four years ahead.

The formula for estimating the economic impact of Baltimore's expanded Convention Center is the same formula most major cities use to measure the success of their centers. The formula was developed by a very reputable source and is the most accurate measure of economic impact. And it allows us to compare our return on investment on an "apples to apples" basis with other destinations.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association's convention bookings have grown consistently each year, from 485,000 room nights in 1996 -- then an all-time high -- to more than 620,000 in 2001. Over the same period, hotel room occupancy rates have increased from 71.3 percent to 75.5 percent.

Finally, the question should be asked: Is the glass two-thirds full or one-third empty?

The chart with The Sun's article showed that by 2000 the center was projected to host 70 events, attracting 330,000 attendees. Even without the headquarters hotel, the expanded center produced 62 events and 55 events in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Attendance for these years captured approximately two-thirds of the projections -- again without a headquarters hotel.

So, is the glass one-third empty or two-thirds full?

Carroll R. Armstrong

Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.

Ridicule won't help city's failing students

I found Gregory Kane's column "Summer school should have stigma" (June 5) interesting but offensive, as I think Mr. Kane failed to consider the much bigger picture.

Yes, the practice of social promotion has certainly proved to be a great disservice to the children and the taxpayers. Yes, there are students who are unwilling to take advantage of the education opportunities offered them.

However, look at the numbers -- 46,000 city children might have to attend summer school. Doesn't that number alone point to a much bigger problem? Does Mr. Kane honestly think that 46,000 children are "goof-offs" who deserve to be snickered at?

What about the vast number of children who have been "taught" by underqualified teachers in poorly run schools? And the children with learning disabilities or the thousands of children with medical, emotional and family problems that affect their ability to perform in the classroom?

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