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Anaheim OKs Contract for Convention Center Design

Architecture: Winning firm's early ideas for expansion include exotic landscaping, laser beam.


ANAHEIM — Plans to nearly double the size of the Anaheim Convention Center moved another step forward Tuesday with the City Council's approval of a $7.1-million agreement with a St. Louis architectural firm to redesign the building.

Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc., which designed the Pond of Anaheim, Coors Stadium in Denver and Jacobs Field in Cleveland, already has completed a conceptual design for expanding the 29-year-old Convention Center into one of the largest in the nation. The early plan includes exotic landscaping, an elaborate new lobby and a dramatic laser beam shooting into the sky from the top of the center's entry rotunda.

"I want to move forward and deliver this project in the time frame we've discussed," said Mayor Tom Daly, whose colleagues voted unanimously to approve the contract.

One concern raised by council members is the possible loss of hotel bed tax revenue that is earmarked for the $150-million expansion project.

A statewide initiative on the November ballot would require voter approval retroactively for all new taxes and tax increases implemented after January 1995. That would apply to a 2% bed tax hike that went into effect last July in Anaheim.

In response to the initiative, the council placed a measure of its own on the November ballot asking Anaheim voters to ratify the recent bed tax hike.

Greg Smith, general manager of the Convention Center and Anaheim Stadium, said the contract approved Tuesday is flexible enough to allow modifications to the project timetable should the city lose bed tax revenue.

If the project goes according to schedule, construction on the first phase, which would add 700,000 square feet to the building's 1 million square feet, could begin next spring and be completed by the fall of 1999. It would be funded through a $400-million bond issue, which also would cover the costs of improving public works associated with the Convention Center as well as a second theme park the Walt Disney Co. plans to build next to Disneyland.

Anaheim risks losing its market share of the lucrative convention and trade-show business unless the building is expanded, according to a study commissioned by the city. The study said the loss could be up to $3.9 million annually in revenue and economic activity.

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