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Convention center anticipates small budget deficit in 2013

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 11:36 a.m.

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh is projected to almost break even in 2013, thanks largely to revenue from Allegheny County's tax on hotel room rentals and state subsidies.

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the center, Friday approved an $11.3 million operating budget that anticipates $11.24 million in revenue from convention center event rentals, food and beverage purchases, hotel tax revenue and state Legislature-sanctioned subsidies.

The SEA said it expects to receive $2.75 million from the hotel tax, $1.8 million from events and $1.3 million from food and beverage sales. Its largest expenses associated with the convention center are payroll and benefits ($4.2 million) and utilities ($1.7 million).

SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo said the roughly $60,000 shortfall between revenue and expenses is negligible.

She said the authority was able to avoid a larger deficit because of two state grants — $1.7 million each — that provide operating-gap funding and cover some of the authority's annual debt payments.

The convention center perennially has operated at a deficit and required subsidies from the hotel tax, which was created to promote tourism and encourage conventions to come to Pittsburgh.

Tourism officials have said the cost of subsidizing the convention center is outweighed by the economic benefit it bestows through increased hotel stays, restaurant business, car rentals and other visitor necessities.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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