Tucson Convention Center getting $65 million upgrade, expansion

Updated: Aug. 1, 2019 at 7:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Rio Nuevo is planning a $65 million upgrade and expansion of the Tucson Convention Center.

It will be the subject of a special meeting of the Rio Nuevo board Aug. 13.

The TCC was built in 1972, but was allowed to deteriorate during a contentious 15 years when the city pursued a downtown convention hotel.

Once the hotel was voted down and the Rio Nuevo Board’s mission and membership changed, the TCC became a focal point in the revitalization efforts of downtown Tucson.

"This property is so valuable to our community," said Edmund Marquez, who sits on the Rio Nuevo board. "It's really outdated, it's time for investment."

The plan must first be approved by the Arizona State Legislature, but it appears to have that.

The goal of Rio Nuevo, a tax incremental financing district, is to support projects that generate income. In this case, it is a sales taxes.

Recent upgrades to the TCC arena have brought the professional hockey and arena football teams to Tucson.

The new upgrades could lure convention business, which has been sorely lacking for the area.

“If you’re a corporation and you come in for meetings and you’re looking for professional power point and high powered WiFi, we don’t have that,” Marquez said. “Our meeting space needs a desperate upgrade.”

Beside companies coming to Tucson to host conventions, it’s hoped the amenities will encourage them to move corporate space or headquarters to Tucson.

“They bring high-paying jobs,” Marquez said.

The TCC is already seeing what a more aggressive Rio Nuevo can bring to the table.

Caliber Hospitality is building a 170-room Doubletree hotel in the east side parking lot.

“For years now, we’ve been the largest convention center in the United States without a hotel,” he said. “So you can’t have convention business if you don’t have hotel rooms for people to stay in.”

The plans are also to upgrade the Music Hall, Leo Rich Theater and to restore the Eckbo Fountains, which have been dry for decades.

“It’s a liability in front of the Music Hall,” he said. “It will be restored and look like the original Eckbo Fountains.”

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