DALLAS – Dallas is considering a $300 million expansion of its downtown convention center after strong gains in bookings with the addition of a bond-financed hotel.

Philip Jones, president and chief executive of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, told a meeting of the bureau that he plans to seek Dallas City Council approval in 2014 for creation of a convention center district.

The district would be allowed to retain the state’s portion of the hotel occupancy tax to service debt issued for the project.  An additional $300 million would double the outstanding debt on the $1 billion convention center, he said.

The expansion would add ballrooms and meeting space to the convention center.

With its first attached, 1,000-room convention hotel in its second year of operation, the convention center is enjoying a pickup in business as the 2008 recession recedes, Jones said.

Dallas issued $388 million of taxable Build America Bonds in August 2009 for the hotel project, along with $90 million of tax-exempt revenue bonds. The hotel bonds were rated A-plus by Standard & Poor’s and A2 by Moody’s Investors Service.

Although the revenue bonds did not require voter approval, Dallas was forced by petition to seek a referendum on the bonds.  Voters approved the bond issue after an intense campaign.

Competition for convention business is intense in Texas and nationally.

San Antonio last year issued $550 million of lease revenue bonds for expansion of the Alamo City’s convention center that sits on the banks of the San Antonio River Walk and borders Hemisfair Park, the site of the 1968 World’s Fair.

With the San Antonio center growing to over 500,000 square feet, the expansion will include a new 50,000 square-foot ballroom, the largest in Texas.

Once new construction is completed in mid 2016, the oldest portion of the convention center, on the west side of the complex, will be demolished for the 12-acre redevelopment of the adjacent park, Hemisfair.

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