Moscone Center has had miraculous impact on SF

On April 11, 2000, the Giants opened their new ballpark. Even before it opened, it was heralded as “the miracle on Third Street.” But there’s another miracle on Third Street, just a few blocks north of AT&T Park, that’s celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. It’s called the Moscone Center.

On Dec. 2, 1981, the Moscone Center opened to great fanfare. A few days later on Dec. 6, it welcomed its first convention group — the American Academy of Dermatologists.

That day in December had been a long time coming. Twenty years, in fact.

California Supreme Court rulings, numerous lawsuits and delays had all taken their toll before May 9, 1979, when the first of more than an eventual 1,800 construction workers descended into the excavated 11-acre site bounded by Third, Howard, Fourth and Folsom streets.

To secure approval to build the center, the Redevelopment Commission had agreed to build it underground to placate The City’s powerful “no growth” advocates. The architectural firm HOK created an innovative structure that could support a rooftop expansion (up to 100,000 tons) if voters approved additional funds.

And indeed they did, because they saw the important economic value that the center was bringing to The City.

The Esplanade Ballroom, which expanded the footprint of Moscone South, was added in 1991. The rooftop became the pedestal for an ice rink and bowling center, playground, carousel and the Children’s Creativity Museum. Moscone North opened in 1992, Moscone West was added in 2003 and we are now reviewing plans to expand east along Third Street.

Moscone opened with one of the largest pre-opening bookings of any convention center in the world. More than 250 trade shows and conventions — some 3 million delegates in all — had already reserved the center before it was even halfway completed.

Just think of the positive impact the Moscone Center and the subsequent expansions have made to our local economy in the past three decades.

Thirty years ago, the world’s computer industry was just in its infancy. In its first full year of operation, the Moscone Center served as an incubator for ideas that would help change our world: Graph Expo, American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Office Automation, Computer Sciences Corporation and Control Data Corporation, among others, according to SMG. SMG has operated the Moscone Center since it first opened, garnering a number of awards recently for its waste-reduction programs and advocacy of solar power.

And the American Academy of Dermatologists, the first group to meet in Moscone? They came back again and again and again: 1989, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009, breaking attendance records in 2000, 2006 and 2009. We will welcome them back again in 2015. This year we are on pace to book 2 million room nights, representing a direct spend of $1,270,490,700 by the delegates occupying those rooms over the next few years.

I’d say that’s no small miracle.

Joe D’Alessandro is president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. He also serves on the California Travel and Tourism Commission and U.S. Travel Association board.

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