Special thank yous to everyone who wrote to Austin City Council urging them to oppose expansion of the convention center. Thank you!! Yesterday, May 23rd the Council did Convention Center2provide direction to the City Manager to begin planning for an expansion to the Downtown Convention Center; a project that is anticipated to cost well over $1.2 billion in public dollars. But, it's just a first step, and our messages made a difference.  Council Members Leslie Pool and Alison Alter added language to the resolution that requires the City Manager to perform a thorough cost/benefit analysis of the proposal, and to look at other options that would provide better returns on our tourism dollars. We need the council to take a step back and consider the opportunity costs of their decisions.

For years, the Austin Convention Center has consumed over seventy percent (70%) of Austin's annual allocation of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, but it generated less than four (4%) of the City's overnight visitors. Why would we continue to invest billions of dollars in an industry that provides such little return on our investment?  And especially when that money could and should be going to support our live music, arts, parks, and unique, local Austin businesses that we love and that actually do draw visitors to Austin.

The Hotel Occupancy Tax is revenue intended to promote all of Austin's tourism industry, including cultural, heritage and ecotourism--not just the convention center. Options exist under state law that would allow Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to be used to invest in ecological tourism and preservation and to support our artists, musicians, and local business owners, who have created Austin's unique culture and who generate the bulk of the Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue.

This proposed billion-dollar convention center expansion perpetuates imbalance and primarily serves a small group of special interests connected to the downtown convention center industry.

We believe Austin can do better. We believe that investments in Austin's cultural, historic and environmental assets are better than lining the pockets of conventioneers. And, we believe these funds can serve Austinites in all parts of town, not one small area of Downtown.

SOS will be working diligently with others to present the council with the information they need to reverse course, before any real financial commitments are made to expand the convention center with 30-years of debt financing. Please stay tuned!