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Downtown Albany Convention Center A "Go!"


The Albany Convention Center Authority was created in 2004. Now,  a decade later, the Albany Convention Center plan is headed toward fruition. The idea for building an Albany Convention Center has been floating around for more than a decade, seeded in outgoing Mayor Jerry Jenning's "Capitalize Albany" plan.

Jennings worked with four different governors to make the convention center happen. This month, a scaled-down version of the project received Governor Andrew Cuomo's blessing, an element proponents of the plan hail as a milestone, which means construction can begin on the 82,000-square foot facility, which will go up on a 1.3 acre site at the corner of Howard and Eagle streets downtown.

Jennings told Newschannel 13 the new structure will be supported by the T-U Center, DeWitt Clinton Hotel and Empire State Plaza.    "We've worked together as a state, as the county and the city. And we're gonna revitalize major components of what's already here."

In 2007, then-County Executive Mike Breslin joined other officials in citing the benefits of a downtown convention center, in comments that are even more timely today.  "First of all it'll create jobs in the building of the facility. We are determined that it'll be jobs for people who live in the community, who need jobs. And second of all, it'll be jobs once it's built, to operate the facility. And third and most importantly, it's going to being huge numbers of tourists here, conventioneers who will bring money, will add to the jobs, add to the value of the property, create business and sales tax, everything in our economy will be boosted by the convention center."

The venue is expected to become a competitive destination for major events, with hopes that business will spill over to nearby hotels and restaurants.   Current projections estimate the center will create 114 construction jobs and 157 permanent jobs over the next two years and generate $2 million dollars in spin-off hotel revenue alone.

Officials stress that an enhanced downtown will help attract major entertainment and sporting events to Albany.   Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber points out the NCAA tries to book events in people-friendly cities. Already, the arena has bids in for NCAA tournament events during the next decade.   "They wanna make sure that he fans have an experience when they go to a city not just enjoying the great action on the court or on the ice but also that the city rolls out the red carpet."

Belber says an enclosed walkway linking the T-U Center, Empire State Plaza and the new convention center will make Albany a more attractive destination.   "That's the kind of thing that the convention planners really look for. They wanna be able to use multiple different spaces, but have their people not have to go out into the cold.” 

Construction’s expected to get underway in June.  The Albany Convention Center Authority will run the facility, expected to lose $1.7 million in its first year of operation.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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