LA approves $54M proposal to expand downtown Convention Center ahead of 2028 Olympics

The Los Angeles City Council is moving forward on a $54 million proposal Wednesday for the initial work to modernize and expand the downtown Convention Center in preparation for the 2028 Olympics.

The council voted 13-1 to allocate the money and move forward with pre-construction work, though several members expressed concerns over the tight timeline the city would face to complete the project.

The preliminary work will help the city determine if the remodeling can actually be done on time -- and if the result shows it can't, then elected leaders will have the ability to pull the plug on the project.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson was absent during the vote.

Councilman Curren Price, who represents the Ninth District, encompassing South L.A. neighborhoods and the Convention Center, said efforts to renovate the facility have been 10 years in the making.

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"We've seen some real challenges about expansion and motivation, but it's something that I think we are prepared to move forward (with) at this time," Price said. "Not only will L.A. have a world-class Convention Center that we can be proud of just in time for the world stage, but it's also going to bring thousands of jobs -- permanent and temporary jobs."

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, the lone no vote, reiterated her concerns with the plan -- mainly the timeline, how it would actually cost nearly $100 million as a result of compounded interests, and the lack of hotel rooms around the facility.

"Those things are falling short in this particular as it stands right now, and it's for that reason that I can't support this," Rodriguez said.

Sharon Tso, the city's chief legislative analyst, and Matt Szabo, chief administrative officer, in a joint report estimated the cost for the project at $4.7 billion over a 30-year period, which includes debt incurred.

The proposal outlines that none of the existing facilities would be demolished, and new construction would connect some of the buildings, adding 190,000 square feet to exhibit hall space, 55,000 square feet of meeting room space and 95,000 square feet of multipurpose space.

Aerial view of Harbor Freeway #110 and Santa Monica Freeway #10 leading to Los Angeles Skyline with Convention Center in foreground. (Photo by: Visions of America/Joseph Sohm/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Szabo said that if the project is approved, the expansion would generate nearly 7,400 new jobs during construction, 2,100 new ongoing jobs, and bring in an additional half-million attendees. Officials also said the project would yield $165 million in new spending each year, and over a 30-year period would generate approximately $570 million to the city's general fund as a result of business, sales, parking and hotel taxes, as well as ad revenue generated from digital signs.

According to Szabo, the new revenue would lower the cost to the city to about $43 million a year.

If the Convention Center project is feasible, the city would pay for the construction but the work would be done through a private-public partnership with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the center, and development firm Plenary Group.

"We believe that, if it is the desire to have construction done by March of 2028, if not sooner, that this is your only path," Tso previously said.

The convention center is scheduled to be the venue for boxing, fencing, taekwondo and table tennis during the 2028 Summer Olympics.

The council's Tourism and Trade Committee, as well as the Budget, Finance and Innovation Committee previously approved the proposal in June.

Business leaders, as well as some labor unions, have urged city officials to move forward with the convention's expansion.

Central City Association President and CEO Nella McOsker celebrated the council's decision Tuesday, describing the expansion as a "generational project" that will spur growth for the local and regional economy.

"We are grateful to the City Council for making the right decision in allowing the project to move forward. The business, labor and civic community stand at the ready to help meet this ambitious but necessary timeline," McOsker said in a statement.