Friday, November 19, 1999
Delta boosts convention center
$30 million deal now official, airline says
BY PHILLIP PINA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Using Delta's $30 million commitment as bait, backers of Cincinnati's convention center are looking to reel in support for a proposed expansion.
The board of Delta Air Lines agreed in June to spend $30 million for naming rights to the downtown convention hall.
On Thursday, Delta's chief executive, Leo Mullin, made it official, calling the deal part of a growing partnership with Cincinnati.
His announcement came during a ceremony filled with Tristate leaders boosting the convention center expansion plan.
This is an endeavor that requires partners, said Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Finding money for expanding the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center remains a large roadblock to the project; estimates range between $350 million and $405 million.
A financing plan for the expansion requires large contributions from the state of Ohio as well as Hamilton County. The city of Cincinnati has issued $50.8 million in bonds and passed a hotel tax to help pay for the project. But that tax increase goes into effect only if proponents raise $20 million in private investment by Jan. 1.
The effort to raise that money is under way, said John Williams, chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
We hope this announcement will spur a continuation of the momentum building for the expansion, said David Anderson, Delta's district director of civic and promotional affairs in Cincinnati.
Delta is a growing supporter in this community, Mr. Williams said. Without Delta, this wasn't going to happen.
While in town for the convention center announcement, Mr. Mullin said Delta has not committed to keeping its reservation center and nearly 1,000 jobs in the city. The company expects to make a decision soon, he said, but until then will weigh all its options.
Delta's reservation center in downtown Cincinnati spends about $500,000 a year on parking for its workers. Of Delta's eight call centers, Cincinnati is its most expensive to run.
Cincinnati officials have shown Delta about seven different locations within city limits, most of them downtown. But the city faces competition from suburban areas, in particular Northern Kentucky, where Delta operates a hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
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