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CONSTRUCTION WON'T WRECK CONVENTIONS, BUREAU SAYS

The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau wants to "try to continue business as usual" when the Salt Palace becomes a construction site next year, according to the bureau's president.

Rick Davis said that 31 of the Salt Palace Convention Center's 25 meeting rooms, one-third of the exhibition space, the kitchens and the Acord Arena will be demolished next year. But plans have been made to accommodate conventions in the Salt Palace's expansion area, built 10 years ago.Davis' comments were made Thursday morning at the monthly President's Forum at the Salt Palace. In keeping with the construction theme, the group gathered behind Utah Barricade signs to eat a breakfast that included "eggs a la demolition, spuds with nuts and bolts and fruits of our labor." A draft 1993 marketing plan was distributed at the meeting.

The draft contained a warning that was echoed by Davis: "Caution! Danger ahead! This is a period of significant change. Current information is insufficient to develop a marketing plan necessary to demonstrate continued success."

When construction is completed in late 1995, major improvements include 256,000 feet of exhibition space and banquet space for 3,000-4,000 people. Davis said the city's inability to accommodate such large banquets is a major reason it has lost "so many conventions." Plans would also make it possible to add a 10,000-foot expansion if a decision is made to use the arena site for an Olympic-size speed-skating oval.

The number of conventions the bureau has been able to book has increased dramatically, from 52 gatherings attended by 46,916 delegates in 1989 to 185 with a projected 113,099 in 1992. Delegates spend an average about $600 each during their stay, Davis said.

Economist Thayne Robson said that figure may be as much as 30 percent too low, since it doesn't include air fare and other expenditures.

Although some conventions have chosen to put off their visits to Salt Lake until renovation and construction is complete, Davis said that the bureau has been very successful in getting commitments for the period when construction is going on.

Although the renovation will give the Salt Palace more space and should mean increased bookings, it will drop to 10th place in a ranking of convention sites. When it was expanded in 1983, it was listed as No. 6. But other cities have built new convention sites and improved existing sites during that time, as well, Davis said.