In the media: Heywood Sanders, author of Convention Center Follies

Convention Center FolliesPenn Press authors are often in the news, making appearances, doing interviews, writing articles and essays, and being tapped as expert commentators. This sort of attention is often tied to the release of a book, with a flurry that tails off over the course of weeks and months. Sometimes, an author is dedicated to promotion, and works hard to keep the book in the public eye. Andrew Zimbalist and Ben Baumer, authors of The Sabermetric Revolution, have done a great job of this.

Once in a while, though, authors finds themselves in the middle of a media moment, weeks or months after their books have hit the store shelves. Case in point: Heywood Sanders. Sanders's book, Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities, was released in May, but with the summer convention season heating up, and expansion projects either underway or proposed around the country, Sanders has been asked to speak on the subject—or had his name taken in vain by those who do not share his views (Sanders is decidedly against convention center expansion)—over and over again of late. Here's a round-up.

The Orlando Sentinel: "Convention center gets $187M facelift – Work is biggest makeover in center's history"

Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, has his doubts. Sanders, who has written extensively about convention centers, said communities routinely overstate the economic benefits of upgrades and expansions.

He said attendance at the center's trade shows and conventions — the events most likely to bring overnight guests — has hovered around 1 million for 15 years, even though the center added 950,000 square feet in 2003. Sanders said other convention centers across the country have had the same experience.

"It's always the same argument," said Sanders, whose new book, "Convention Center Follies," includes sections on Orlando. "They'll say, 'We need something more — more amenities, more space.' But, ultimately, you're not coming out ahead."

The Washington Post (Op-ed by Steven Pearlstein): "Debunking the conventional wisdom about conventions"

Washington finally has a great new (tax-subsidized) convention hotel to go along with its great new (subsidized) downtown convention center. The glass-and-steel building is about as light and inviting as a 1,175-room hotel can be. With the completion of the Marriott Marquis, Washington is now positioned to compete for more and bigger national meetings and conventions.

Unfortunately, in the hypercompetitive world of (subsidized) conventions, there is never a good time to rest on your laurels. "Moscone Center expansion called vital to keep shows in S.F."

Some counsel caution. The Moscone expansion "is based on a seriously bullish feasibility study," said Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas, who tracks convention attendance and accompanying hotel room occupancy nationwide.

San Diego Reader (Book review of Convention Center Follies): "How can convention centers be so dumb?"

A remarkable new book, Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public Investment in American Cities, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, tells the amazing story of how one American city after another builds into a massive glut of convention-center space, even though the industry itself warns its centers that the resultant price-slashing will worsen current woes. (Response to Pearlstein's Washington Post column): "Washington Post Columnist Lambasts Conventions, Industry Responds"

"Mentioned (but glossed over) in Pearlstein's column is the fact that the District is already beginning to book large citywide conventions that would have been impossible to attract without a headquarters hotel property within walking distance of the convention center." —ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV

Trade Show News Network (Another response to Pearlstein): "Yet Another Short-sighted View on Headquarter Hotel, Convention Center Builds"

Pearlstein goes to the old standby source for slamming any new builds or expansions – Heywood Sanders – a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who in his book “Convention Center Follies” talks about the waste of money building centers when there is so much unsold space already available.

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