Thursday, February 4, 1999


Some local events OK
at convention center

By Russ Lynch


Weddings and birthday parties are out, as are many other local functions, but the $350 million Hawaii Convention Center will be opened for a limited range of local events, under a policy being developed by the center's governing board.

Recognizing criticism from Hawaii taxpayers and event organizers that the center is essentially closed to them, the Convention Center Authority yesterday decided to vote soon on a set of policies that would allow Hawaii events, under stringent conditions.

But board members said the ideal would be to have so many bookings from the mainland and overseas that the center just couldn't handle local events.

That's because the Legislature's mandate for the center is to attract conventions from outside Hawaii that generate hotel room tax and general excise tax revenue for the state, said Mark Fukunaga, chairman of the authority's policy committee.

Since the center is in its early years it is closed most of the time and that has led to demands for local access.

It will take time, several months at least, for detailed rules to go through public hearings and other administrative procedures and they may change along the way, but for now the authority plans to adopt a broad policy that would accommodate local groups if:

bullet The convention is too large to be held at the city's Neal Blaisdell Center, local hotels or other facilities. Or, the group is one that has persuaded its national or international parent to hold a convention at the center and deserves to be rewarded.

bullet The group complies with strict transportation requirements, providing either off-site parking or a shuttle service, because of the center's small 800-stall parking facility.

bullet The meeting pays the going rent rate.

bullet Meetings can't be booked longer than six months out into the future and the local organizers must agree to change their plans if an offshore event wants to come in at the same time.

Fukunaga said there should be no birthday parties or other purely social functions and no political fund raisers.

Still to be refined is the center's policy toward government agencies' meetings, said Fukunaga, who is also chairman and chief executive of Servco Pacific Inc.

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