City plans to move forward with Austin Convention Center expansion, focus remains on COVID-19

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is moving forward with plans to fund a $1.2 billion expansion of the Austin Convention Center.

“Feels like a necessary step because ultimately be economy will bounce back and Austin is best positioned for it,” Jimmy Flannigan, council member for District 6, explained.

Last year, the city approved a 2% increase in the Hotel Occupancy Tax to specifically set aside for the expansion. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only shuttered every convention since mid-March, it’s also slashed the expansion’s primary new funding source. City officials estimate a 30% decrease in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue with a slow recovery.

Despite the current pandemic financial needs, the earmarked Hotel Occupancy Tax money can legally only be used for the expansion.

“It is still a necessary and valuable act and it really doesn’t take away from anything else by the way state law is written about hotel tax collections,” he said.

Flannigan said council does not have plans to make any decisions on the convention center’s expansion any time soon. At present, the focus is on addressing COVID-19.

“There are far more unknowns than knowns in what the future is going to hold,” he said.

Those at the Austin Convention Center Department plan to present before council sometime later this year, but do not have a specific timeline or an idea of when construction could start on the expansion if approved.

But some wonder what the future will hold for Austin and its conferences, sporting events and conventions as the world battles COVID-19. Flannigan is hopeful.

“I don’t have how many years it will take, I don’t have how many months it will take, but I do believe that once we get through a pandemic that the recovery will be swift,” he said.

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