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County Plans $3 Million Facelift at Convention Center


By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – There are some changes in store for the Buffalo Convention Center. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra Thursday announced that the county is committing at least $3 million to give the building a facelift. And the operational structure is getting revamped with a consolidated board of directors. But one thing not changing is the location. Plans for a new convention center have been put on the back burner.

Giambra called the 1978 building, where work is already underway, old and tired. But he says, with the ailing local economy, plans for a new convention center are now on hold - indefinetly. In the meantime, officials say the improvements are essential for keeping the convention center competitive. Paul Murphy is the newly appointed executive director of the Convention Center. Murphy says Buffalo's aging facility can still grab convention business - only on a more modest scale.

"We're never going to compete with the Orlando's and the Chicago's of the world. But, with the improvements to this building Buffalo has always been, and can be, a competitive city," Murphy said. "We're price competitive. We have great service here. We have the culturals, the architecture, the hotel package, and with improvements to this building, we can compete, especially in the state market."

An agressive new marketing campaign is also underway to help lure convention customers to Buffalo. Murphy says they will target state, regional and national prospects through trade publications, direct and e-mail campaigns.

To give the Convention Center even more of a competetive edge, Giambra announced the merger of the its two boards - the Buffalo Convention Center Management Corporation and the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau. Giambra says the marriage fits in with the county's regional strategy.

"I think there is a real opportunity for us as we begin to collaborate, as we begin to bring all the diverse elements of this community together -- from the arts orginations to the cultural venues -- with the CVB operation here," Giambra said. "It's giving us an opportunity now to really do something a little bit more agressively than we have in the past. We're putting some emphasis on the "V" part of the CVB because I think the visitor part is something that is going to pay dividends down the road."

Announcements about changes at the center come in the wake of a recent consultant's recommendation to replace the facility. That report concluded that a new state-of-the-art convention center should be built on the Mohawk site in Buffalo. But county officials say the estimated $220 million price tag - for now - is too steep.