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Funding May Be Sticking Point For New Raleigh Convention Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh and Wake County leaders want to spend nearly $200 million on a new convention center, but some people wonder if the investment is worth the payoff.

Jay Mahan, chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said revenue from the hotel and meal tax could pay for the project.

"It's my understanding that we have $200 million that can be committed," he said.

City Councilman Kieran Shanahan said the real cost of building a new convention center would be much higher.

"Two hundred million dollars is available over 20 years if we didn't fund any other projects," he said. "Wake County released numbers in December that show that while they're borrowing $200 million, they are going to need $470 million to cover the interest."

Shanahan said the taxpayers' committment to the convention center would not end there. Supporters acknowledge the center would probably operate at a loss and require public money to keep running, but they estimate it would create 2,000 jobs and pump $100 million each year into the local economy -- an impact officials say every taxpayer could appreciate.

"What it means to a Wake County taxpayer is $398 in reduced property taxes because of what visitor spending means in Wake County," Mahan said.

City and county leaders may decide next month if they want to spend local money to bring out-of-towners to downtown Raleigh. Approving a new convention center is just the first hurdle. Local leaders say building a 450-room hotel within walking distance is crucial to making the project work.


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