The Post-Gazette published a lengthy letter I wrote
in response to an article on the Philadelphia Convention
Center. Here's the letter:
As a volunteer planner of science fiction conventions, I was not at all surprised to read "Bookings Fall at Philadelphia Convention Center" (July 7). I worked on a conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia late last summer, and while our conference did get off in a timely manner, it cost thousands of extra dollars in labor fees.
We were required to rent equipment at high prices that we could have brought to the convention for free or rented more cheaply elsewhere. Dealing with that convention center involved more aggravation than I have seen in 25 years of working on conferences across the country.
The article makes one erroneous point: "The center runs the risk of attracting only military, educational, religious and social organizations."
The Philadelphia center may not even attract many of these types of organizations in the future. I worked on a conference for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, and, as far as I can tell, we were charged as much as any corporation would have been.
On paper, the Philadelphia center is a convention-ideal site. When prospective convention planners visit the site, it looks perfect from the street. The convention center has great facilities, is adjacent to Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown and has many hotels within three blocks. But I know many of us who have dealt with the center would rather not do so in the future, no matter how great the site looks.
The Pittsburgh convention center can learn some valuable lessons from the problems in Philadelphia. Although the Pittsburgh center has a lot of potential, it has an additional problem: the location of the convention center. The city needs to understand that the area around the convention center must be redeveloped to help attract more convention business.
While our new convention center will look terrific from the river, visitors look for street appeal. They look for nearby restaurants and hotels.
With the exception of the Westin Convention Center hotel (which is a wonderful hotel with one of the best restaurants in town), there isn't another hotel for at least three blocks.
People doing planning for Downtown Pittsburgh should quit ignoring the area around the convention center and start thinking about how to attract conventions to the city.
Unfortunately, the city of Pittsburgh has done little to make potential convention attendees want to stay in the convention center area.
LAURIE D.T. MANN
Here's the link: