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Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023

Convention Center Preps for August Reopening

The San Diego Convention Center Corporation, which halted meetings and conferences last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is readying to reopen.

The 2.6 million square foot facility is scheduled to host in-person events again starting on Aug. 1, according to Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, president and CEO. Approximately 70 events are on the calendar for the next fiscal year, he said, which runs from July 2021 through June 2022.
“Our first events scheduled to take place when we reopen are SPIE Optics + Photonics, (scheduled for) August 1 through 5 with an estimated attendance of 3,000 and AKC Meet the Breeds, August 14 through 15 with an estimated attendance of 7,000 to 10,000,” he said. “The San Diego Convention Center serves as an economic driver for our region. We help drive business to local retailers, attractions, special event venues, hotels, bars, restaurants and more. The employees that work at our neighboring businesses are able to take their income and reinvest it throughout the County of San Diego, further benefiting the community.”
Other notable upcoming events include, but are not limited to: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (August 31-September 3); The American Society of Anesthesiologists (October 8-October 12); American Society of Nephrology (November 4-November 7); National Association of Realtors (November 12-November 15); and Comic-Con (Special Edition Event, November 26-November 28).

Short-Term Housing
During the fiscal year July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, the San Diego Convention Center Corporation couldn’t host any events due to the coronavirus crisis and subsequent state restrictions. As a result, it estimated a lost regional economic impact of $1.58 billion.
So, the San Diego Convention Center shifted its focus, said Rippetoe.
“Before the start of the pandemic, we predicted we would have a record-setting economic impact in our region in 2020. Then the pandemic began, conventions began cancelling and a ban on gatherings went into effect,” he said. “ In less than a month, we prepared our facility to support Operation Shelter to Home, a city-led effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego. Between April 2020 and March 2021, the operation served over 4,000 individuals and helped over 1,300 individuals and 43 families find permanent or longer-term housing.”

Immigrant Children
As the last of the homeless residents moved into longer-term housing and as events continued to get canceled through July due to ongoing restrictions in California, public officials called on the Convention Center to meet yet another emergency need, said Rippetoe.
This time, it was to house immigrant children as they waited to be reunited with family or sponsors in the United States. Since then, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement has been using space within the Convention Center building for this effort, he said. Plans are to close the operation by July 15, said Rippetoe, giving the Convention Center staff enough time to clean and transition the building before events resume Aug. 1.

Vaccinated Onsite
To prepare for reopening, The San Diego Convention Center has been working closely with city, county and federal public health officials to enhance cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention as well as conduct extensive employee training.

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To encourage employees and partners to get vaccinated, the San Diego Convention Center held a series of educational “virtual town hall” meetings with county public health leaders about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, said Rippetoe. The venue also offered multiple opportunities for staff members to be vaccinated onsite, he added.
Also in anticipation, the San Diego Convention Center recently hired a new executive chef for Centerplate, its food and beverage partner. Sufi Karaien previously served as its senior executive sous chef and will begin in his new role this month.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to step into this leadership position and continue to develop new and creative approaches to catered experiences” upon reopening, said Karaien.

Steady Increase in 2022
Rippetoe and his team are motivated to welcome guests back into the building and hopeful the San Diego Convention Center will continue to significantly impact the local economy.
“When comparing our projected operating revenue for FY22 to pre-pandemic years, averaging the revenue from fiscal years 2017 to 2019, we expect it to be down approximately 44%,” said Rippetoe. “Our operating revenue primarily includes building rent, food and beverage, and ancillary services for events such as A/V. We project this revenue to steadily increase in 2022 and future years as international travel returns and attendee confidence builds.”


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