Island, McAllen centers report strong bookings

HARLINGEN — For more than 20 years, city leaders dreamed of building a convention center to draw tourist dollars to town.

Now, Mayor Chris Boswell’s administration plans a $14 million convention center that would become the city’s first new meeting place since Casa de Amistad and Casa del Sol were built decades ago.

To bring the 43,000-square-foot convention center to town, the city plans a unique development concept, Boswell said Friday.

Partnering with San Antonio-based developer BC Lynd, the city would split the convention center’s profits and any deficit.

As part of the plan, the city would fund construction of the convention center, while BC Lynd would build a 150-room upscale hotel and operate the convention center.

“No one else has done it this way so far in the Valley,” Boswell said.

The city would face strong competition from convention centers in South Padre Island and McAllen.

On the Island, the South Padre Island Convention Center draws from a $5.8 million budget to fund a 16-member staff while its Convention & Visitors Bureau operates with 14 employees, said Director Keith Arnold, who took over in July.

“The building is pretty busy,” Arnold said of the 45,000-square-foot convention center that opened in 1992.

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