It’s no secret to any who reside in the Valley that Grand Junction is far from thriving economically. Colorado Mesa University students have consistently lamented the lack of businesses open late at night, the crumbling infrastructure and now the growing parade of “Going out of Business” signs that seem to pop up from Main Street to North Avenue.
Despite this evidence of economic decline, and a student population of over 10,000 ready to spend money, the city seems to stubbornly deny any opportunity for growth. Just last week, the Grand Junction City Council voted down a contract for broadband, one that proponents saw as a necessity for small businesses to flourish, CMU to excel and Grand Junction to, at the very least, survive.
On the other hand, Palisade recently voted to accept recreational marijuana, a sensitive topic, but one that has the ability to bring in $1 million yearly in tax revenue. Grand Junction’s older conservative population has consistently denied this opportunity and would rather leave the industry on the black market.
However, much like a boardroom of desperate investors hoping to revitalize a dying company, Grand Junction has thrown their support to a foolish plan. The Grand Junction Event Center, a 140,000-square-foot, $65 million behemoth, will be on the ballot April 4. Granted, it is a very nice looking behemoth, but a behemoth nonetheless.
Business owners across the Grand Valley are heralding this event center as the savior the city needs, and yet, we at the Criterion question whether anyone has looked to the past for guidance. We don’t have to list the countless times that cities have tried this plan, to build an event center, and then watched as it accumulated dust and their city continued to shed revenue, but we will anyway:
- New York’s Javits Center will be getting a $1.5 billion expansion, despite dropping trade show attendance, its economic swan song.
- Dallas’ Convention Center, despite government subsidies hiding some of their losses, proposed $250 million on questionable expansions in 2014.
- Washington D.C.’s massive convention center, losing about $22 million a year, struggles in an Internet world.
- Chicago’s McCormick Place, a hot-spot for expansions, continues to lose attendance in its trade shows and meetings to 37 percent.
- Similar situations can also be seen in Austin, Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
Largely, what we see happening across the country is increase after increase of convention centers and their square footage, while attendance continues to drop. Grand Junction is a city so desperate for growth that it will do anything, outside of some research and thoughtful consideration.
As Grand Junction moves toward this vote, businesses across the city close and roads decay. We would also like to remind everyone that North Avenue is still missing an unacceptable amount of sidewalk and the city’s public transportation lacks the funds it needs to be on par with the rest of the country.
A convention center is sexy, simple and relatively easy. Rather than city officials asking each other what is going wrong in Grand Junction, they slap this band-aid on the problem and tell each other that businesses will come.This isn’t a field of dreams, this is Grand Junction, a city that is known for its ugly side. A shiny convention center will not change that.
It is with all this evidence considered that the Criterion urges CMU students, faculty and staff to vote no on Measure 2A. If this measure is passed, the city would find itself worse off than it is already, with the young workforce continuing to leave, businesses continuing to close and a city government shrugging its shoulders.