The 161-room Hilton Hotel planned for downtown Riverside will allow more and larger events nearby, helping boost the city’s revenues and profile, downtown advocates say.
“We regularly sell out of hotel rooms when there are big events in town like Festival of Lights, and the convention center actually has a lot of events it has to turn away because there aren’t enough rooms,” said Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents downtown. “The larger ones are usually multi-day, and it really makes a big difference.”
The difference is two-fold, Gardner said: First, people coming to a convention visit downtown entertainment, restaurants and other businesses. Then the city receives revenue from a tax on hotel rooms, sales tax and perhaps higher property tax as a result of the business successes.
“That means money for services people want,” he said.
On top of that, more people downtown means more chances to advertise the city, said Cindy Roth, president and CEO of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce.
“With the growth and investment that’s been made in the convention center, this obviously creates an economic impact and also showcases the Riverside area to visitors coming in,” Roth said. “We have all made a major investment in that convention center, and we’re already seeing the fruits of that. I think this will add to that.”
A $43 million renovation and expansion closed the convention center for more than a year and a half, until it reopened in 2014 with 30 percent more space and 21st-century decor and amenities.
Total convention attendees are slightly lower than before the renovations, while revenue has nearly doubled, according to convention center officials.
That contributed to an economic impact that the center estimated at $12.2 million.
The 161 planned Hilton rooms, along with the 105 Hampton Inn rooms under construction on Market Street, will make it easier for larger conventions to secure large blocks of hotel rooms, said Scott Megna, president and general manager of the Raincross Hospitality Corporation, which runs the convention center.
That’s one of the factors that has limited what events come to the center, he said.
“This proposal is a real positive for the Riverside Convention Center and all of Riverside,” Megna said in an email. “Additional hotel rooms will help us continue to attract larger conventions and groups.”
Several stages of approval are still required for the fire station at 3438 Mission Inn Ave. that the City Council agreed May 8 to sell for $1 million to Hilton Hotel project’s developer. City officials expect the hotel to open in late 2020.
City staffers are preparing a report on how many hotel rooms the city can support before the market is oversaturated.
But attractions such as the Riverside Municipal Auditorium, Mission Inn, Fox Performing Arts Center and planned Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry, in addition to people coming for court and other requirements, mean there’s plenty of demand, said Janice Penner, executive director of the Downtown Riverside Partnership
“There’s so many things happening and planned for downtown, I don’t think there’s going to be oversaturation for some time,” Penner said. “We absolutely have been very much in support of the Hilton.”
Riverside Convention Center changes
2011-12, before renovation: about 183,000
2014-15, after renovation: about 162,000
2011-12, before renovation: $4 million
2014-15, after renovation: $4.6 million
2015-16: $5.9 million
2016-17: $7.1 million