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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Convention Center coming together on time, on budget

The Spokane Convention Center is just weeks away from throwing open its doors for larger conventions and events.

Garco Construction is on time and on budget for a 91,000-square-foot expansion of the facility as workers Monday hurried to finish installing a massive wall of 550 glass panels on the new north side next to the Spokane River and Centennial Trail. The glass wall will rise above a 9,000-square-foot outdoor deck.

On the lower level, workers also were trying to beat the arrival of wintry weather so they could pave a new loading and unloading roundabout to serve the main facility.

Clancy Welsh, Garco president and manager of the project, said the schedule calls for finishing the exhibit hall’s upper level by late December and then completing the lower spaces, including a new ballroom, in January.

“This will be enclosed in the next couple of days,” Welsh said of the new indoor space on the main upper level.

The project will give the Convention Center more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is considered an important threshold for attracting large conventions. In all, the Convention Center is getting 91,000 square feet of new space, including facilities for back-house operations, at a cost of more than $50 million.

As a result, the 13-acre complex between Division and Washington streets will be able to host more than one event simultaneously.

Kevin Twohig, CEO of the Spokane Public Facilities District, which runs the facility, said the expansion already is attracting large meetings.

The annual Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum in February is taking advantage of the new space to show off more farm equipment, he said.

In August, the Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries organization will bring its annual convention to Spokane with as many as 3,000 participants.

The Convention Center estimates the ASI convention will have a $9.8 million economic impact locally, including about 3,900 hotel room nights.

In 2017, the International Cake Exploration Societé is expected to bring 1,200 people to Spokane for its convention.

The expansion was made possible by voter approval in 2012 of a ballot measure to extend a 0.10 percent retail sales tax and a 2 percent room tax from 2033 to 2043. Those taxes were originally approved to build the Spokane Arena.

The project is generating about 400 jobs both during and after construction, and it is providing a stimulus for the new Grand Hotel Spokane at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Bernard Street as well as other development downtown, Twohig said.

Currently, Garco has about 150 trade workers and laborers on the job. They are both union and nonunion workers. All are paid prevailing wages.

On the southwest side of the Convention Center complex, the Grand Hotel Spokane by Walt and Karen Worthy has nearly reached the stage where the final exterior pieces can be placed on the roof.

The project has also redeveloped the Centennial Trail with new landscaping, including metal fence artwork intended in part to keep geese from wandering along the trail.

The PFD is using a design-build approach to the job, which probably shaved six months off the construction schedule, Twohig said.

A team of Garco, ALSC Architects of Spokane and LMN Architects of Seattle was chosen following a competition with two other teams.

In addition to the expansion, the PFD used the voter-approved funds to add 750 seats to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.