The San Antonio City Council got their first look at the designs for the new expanded Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center this week.
At the council session, Michael Sawaya, director of Convention and Sports Facilities, said almost immediately after taking the podium that San Antonio has outgrown the current setup.
He said it’s important that San Antonio remain competitive for conventions going forward.
"It’s about sustainability, about quality and about convenience for the customer, about being a one-stop shop destination," he said.
The team putting the designs together said the improved convention center will have more than 500,000 square feet of prime contiguous convention space and will provide multi-purpose rooms.
Michael Lockwood described what some of the renderings look like.
"There’s an outdoor balcony that will allow people to step outside of the ballroom and literally look down Market Street and see the intersection of Market and Alamo and give them that visual connection to downtown that they don’t get today in the building," he said.
Some of the council members were disappointed.
District 9 councilwoman Elisa Chan said with 50 percent of the design complete, not much can be changed without affecting the budget. She and her colleagues would have liked more of a chance for input because the building will be a major part of how downtown looks.
Functionality, she said, is not in the council’s area of expertise. They aren’t questioning the size or proposed layout of the building.
Lockwood said the plans began in 2010 when the city hired a consultant to study the future of the aging center, so this rendering was not an impulse.
"We didn’t show up with a product," he said, "we didn’t show up with a building type and just deliver it to San Antonio. It was really about having the right conversations at the right time."
The city has taken big steps in the past year to make the new center a reality, including a design-build agreement for the construction of the new facility.