Saturday, April 4, 2009

Contrary to reports, 2002 Market Study rejected CC Project

Seventh in a series

The 2000 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Market and Economic Analysis report envisions a much smaller convention center than was actually built. The 2002 update considers a convention center of the size eventually built and recommends the 2000 concept of almost half the size "should continue to be used."

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) along with Ernst & Young and PKF Consultants arguably make up the three most prestigious hotel and convention center consultants in the both the United States and the world. PWC was engaged in 1999 and again in 2002 by the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority to perform a 'Market Study' but not a 'Feasibility Study'. A Market Study largely deals in regional and national generalities; a Feasibility Study predicts the financial outcome of a specific project. (Visit here to read American Evaluation's confirmation of the difference.)

In or about 2006, PWC would withdraw both its 2000 study and 2002 update, stating the large difference between what they had studied and what actually was to be built. They reportedly had previously warned the LCCCA about misrepresenting the conclusions of their studies. (Visit here for specifics.)

In 2007, PWC would decline a request from the County Commissions to create an actual Feasibility Study. The implication was PCW feared a controversy given how its Market Study had been misrepresented. (PKF Consultants were then engaged to generate a Feasibility Study.)
The 2000 it was predicated on a Convention Center that would be from 102,000 square feet to 116,000 net of Back-of-house support and Food Service Areas. The actual Convention Center is 183,917, about 75% larger on a comparable basis.

It appears that, even when adjusted for inflation, the projected cost for the Convention Center is approximately twice the amount anticipated in the 2000 report.

More telling is the 2002 "Update" of the PCW that had been commissioned by the LCCCA. A copy of the report, marked "Draft – For Discussion Purposes Only" states:

"As identified previously a goal of this report was to consider the potential for a modified convention center assuming a larger exhibition hall (50,000-56,000 square feet) and seating for concerts and certain sporting and special events.

"It is important to note that the November 2000 study was conducted subsequently to a 1999 analysis by another firm (Editor’s note: Ernst & Young) suggesting the development of a convention facility containing 61,000 square feet of meeting, ballrooms, and exhibit space. As indicated in our 2000 study, at that time the Authority was also interested in assessing the potential for a larger venue capable of attracting larger conventions and trade shows that could benefit county-wide hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, and other segments of the local economy. The November 2000 report suggested demand in Lancaster County for a somewhat larger center (compared to the 1999 study), as illustrated above, containing between 70,000 and 80,000 square feet of meeting, ballroom, and exhibit space."

The report goes on to state: "Discussions with potential meeting planners continue to support our November 2000 conclusions regarding facility needs (square footage) required by events that would consider Lancaster County and the proposed convention center."

Finally: "Based on the findings presented in this report, we have concluded that at the prior estimates of utilization for the proposed Lancaster County Convention Center should continue to be used for long term planning purposes."

According to former City Council member Luis A. Mendoza, the PWC Update was withheld from council members despite his insistance that he be provided a copy before voting on the Project.