Price tag for TCC upgrades leads to sticker shock

Price tag for TCC upgrades leads to sticker shock

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The price estimate to continue upgrades at the Tucson Convention Center is likely more than Rio Nuevo and the city of Tucson alone can handle.

"We saw a preview of that yesterday, a couple of us," says Rio Nuevo Board Chairman Fletcher McCusker. "And the sticker shock was obvious."

The price tag is very close to $35 million for phases II and III. Phase IV adds an additional $18 million for a parking garage. 

Those numbers have been made public in a cost estimate summary released by Rio Nuevo.

Now that they are public, they are sure to generate some conversation.

But it appears, if Tucson is going to compete in the convention business, it's going to take that kind of money going forward.

"The city, county and region are going to have to step up," McCusker says. "The question now is, what else can we do, who else can help us?"

The big-ticket items on the current agenda are a $6 million exhibition hall and $11 million for new meeting rooms. 

"Rio Nuevo can bring maybe $10 million of that $35 million to the table." he says. "The recommendation is we go to the city, sit down and see if we can figure this out."

The TCC suffered many years of neglect as the city prepared to build and pay for a new $200 million hotel and convention space. 

Those plans died as the economy slipped, and many didn't want taxpayers on the hook for a risky proposition.

By the time Rio Nuevo began to refocus on the TCC, it had deteriorated to the point of needing very costly repairs.

The arena has just been upgraded to state-of-the-art at a cost of nearly $10 million.

It will take at least twice that to bring the rest of the TCC to modern status as well.

It may take the entire $35 million to make it competitive with other cities such as Albuquerque or San Antonio, although McCusker feels it could be modernized for $20 million.

At that point, it may draw enough attention that a big-name sponsor or private investor may step up to the plate and partner on the upgrades, he says.

"But Tucson doesn't have that," McCusker says. "Phoenix does."

And that price tag does not include $18 million for a parking garage.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.