Work to replace the iconic but aging sails at the San Diego Convention Center could begin as soon as November, after the City Council’s Budget Committee Wednesday gave a tentative go-ahead to a proposed $25.5 million state loan.
If the plan is approved by the full City Council, the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank would provide the funding to the San Diego Convention Center Corp., which would be chiefly responsible for repayment. Debt service is expected to be $1.6 million annually through 2042, according to staff.
City officials have been working for several years now to come up with a plan to replace the fabric sail structure. Also part of the project would be modernizing escalators, replacing a cooling tower and improving fire safety systems.
The city of San Diego would act as a co-signer of sorts, responsible for making up the difference in repayments in case the convention center falls short in a given year — an arrangement that raised concern among several of the committee members.
But Committee Chairman Todd Gloria said the improvements are “urgent” and need to be done, even with what he called “a reasonable risk.”
“This building is very important to our city’s economy and we have to maintain it,” Gloria said.
Staff said the convention center would keep the loan repayments as a top priority in its budget each year.
The loan plan still requires approval of the full City Council, as well as the boards of the convention center, Port of San Diego and the I-Bank.
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