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WHEELS START TURNING FOR A ST. GEORGE CONVENTION CENTER

Construction of a proposed new $12 million convention center in St. George is at least two years down the road, officials said.

The recent purchase of the current convention facility, the Dixie Center, by the state building authority is seen as the first step in constructing the 100,000-square-foot center.The lease-purchase agreement netted the city $6 million, which would go toward the new center.

City Manager Gary Esplin said the county has hired a consultant to determine if sales-tax revenue from the proposed center and surrounding businesses could pay off a state-issued bond.

Until that study is complete, no money will change hands. The "feasibility study" was a stipulation of the purchase agreement which was passed in March.

"We have to convince the state that there will be enough revenue," Esplin said. "Any state bonds used to buy the Dixie Center are contingent upon that revenue."

Taxes will not be raised to fund the center, he said.

The city will have to prove not only that such a center would draw big crowds, but also that private businesses are willing to invest in hospitality-based enterprises to support the center and its guests.