RIVERGATE WILL CLOSE ON JULY 1 TO CUT DEFICIT

Published: Thursday, February 7, 1991
Edition: THIRD
Section: MONEY
Page: C1
Byline: By BRUCE EGGLER Staff writer

Text:

The Rivergate will close July 1 and all events booked in it for the rest of the year will be transferred to the New Orleans Convention Center.

The board of the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, which runs the Convention Center and also has managed the Rivergate since 1988, Wednesday approved a 1991 budget calling for only the Rivergate's underground parking lot to remain open after July 1.

The budget also projects a 10 percent decline in hotel-motel tax collections in 1991 from 1990.

The drop is expected to result from the sluggish national economy and the lack in 1991 of premier tourist events such as a Super Bowl to push up room prices.

Exhibition Hall Authority officials said that closing the Rivergate the last six months of the year will cut its expected 1991 operating deficit of about $1.2 million by almost 50 percent.

Sixteen meetings and public shows will be transferred from the Rivergate to the Convention Center. A $121 million expansion doubling the center's size will open this summer.

After 1991, the authority will give up its lease on the Rivergate, which belongs to the Dock Board.

The authority recently was told by consultants that the Rivergate, which opened in 1968 as the city's first convention center, is outdated and cannot be operated economically without major renovations.

The consultants, the firm of Coopers & Lybrand, recommended closing the hall after 1991, but the authority decided to act six months earlier.

Convention Center President Ray Liuzza said the building needs at least $6 million worth of renovations and repairs.

Dock Board President J. Ron Brinson said in December that if the board "gets stuck with it (the Rivergate) again, we will take steps to insulate the maritime industry from the costs of running it."

The Dock Board and the city, which owns 80 percent of the land under the Rivergate, are expected to consider other possible uses for the site, such as a gambling casino, a hotel or stores.

The Dock Board and city have received several proposals in recent years to redevelop the site or the unused tunnel beneath it, but the need to maintain most of the building as a convention center and the often strained relations between the city and the board proved major obstacles.

Illustration: The Rivergate Convention Center is being closed because, experts say, it is outdated and can't be made profitable without extensive renovations.

STAFF PHOTO



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