Click photo to enlarge
The Monterey Conference Center is outmoded, say hospitality industry leaders.

The Monterey City Council will be asked Tuesday to approve a $30.7 million upgrade of the city conference center.

The city wants to refurbish the 35-year-old center to better keep pace with convention industry demands and deferred maintenance.

Choosing the $30.7 million (2011 estimate) "preferred" package — which would include $24.6 million in construction costs and $6.1 million for design, permits, inspections and other soft costs — would cap a six-year process.

A study completed in 2007 said the center's building systems needed $14.5 million worth of work. And a 2010 market study recommended both expansion and renovation.

The city in 2011 hired LMN Architects, which came up with four options — including the recommended option.

A council report says the preferred option would improve the center, make it a competitive state-of-the-art conference center and increase utilization and revenue-making events.

The renovation would increase the number of meeting rooms, exhibit space, dining space, theater seats and rentable space, the report says.

Though financing is not before the council Tuesday, the city is looking at forming a conference center facilities district to pay for the center renovation.

A sheaf of support letters from hospitality industry representatives is included in the council packet.

Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said in a letter the conference center "can continue to generate a positive return if the necessary investment is made to bring the facility up to date ...."

Theodore Balesteri, president of the Inns of Cannery Row, wrote, "After 35 years, the existing conference facility has served us well but must be renovated and updated to better serve today's customer."

Janine Chicourrat, general manager of the Portola Hotel & Spa next to the conference center, was more blunt in her letter: "The city's conference center is obsolete. It is not competitive with other California destinations, and, as a result, meetings and trade shows have relocated...."

The proposed renovation would do away with the 494-seat Steinbeck Forum on the center's third floor, replacing it with a "junior ballroom" with more seating capacity.

Last August, the council asked the architects to come with options for keeping the forum, but their report says retaining the forum "compromises the capacity and flexibility of the improvements."

The council also asked for an updated cost estimate for the project. The total cost is now estimated at $32.3 million.

Also Tuesday, the Monterey council will consider:

· Seeking proposals from would-be food vendors at Simoneau Plaza. The process started in September when a man asked the city for permission to operate a hot dog cart at the plaza.

· Consider whether to respond to the Monterey Peninsula Airport District's search for another agency to provide fire services at the airport. A council report says a partnership would help both the city and airport.

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or lparsons@montereyherald.com.


If you go
·What: Monterey City Council meeting
·When: Tuesday, 4 and 7 p.m
·Where: Council chambers, 580 Pacific St., Monterey