Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dena'ina Center turns one

Checkout the article on Sunday's ADN regarding the one year anniversary of the opening of the new Dena'ina convention center. Apparently, despite the downturn in the economy this last year, the center is meeting and exceeding estimated revenue projections made in 2005. Also, not a single event was cancelled this last year despite the economy while bookings for future events are going in to 2014. During this first year of operation, I've been paying close attention to the center and have since observed some goods and bads. For the goods: the convention center actually brings people to the usually empty streets of South Downtown. During weekend events, crowds can leave the center and cross the street to McGinley's Pub, Humpy's, or just all of downtown in general which wouldn't be the case had these events taken place in the far away Sullivan Arena -- the venue that formally housed some of the events now going to the Dena'ina. Yet the bad thing about the convention center is its very self. Though it's more welcoming than the parking lot that came before it, whenever the convention center is not is use (which is often), the whole block which the building occupies sits empty further contributing to the deserted anti-human scale street life that South Downtown has long suffered. While I supported the citys efforts at a new larger convention center since efforts began in 2002 and continue to do so, I hope this convention center will be the last of the superblock variety. To see the success rate of these superblocks, all one has to do is look across the street from the Dena'ina and look at the ConocoPhillips complex, or the 6th avenue parking garage across from that -- places that are too spooky to walk by after 6:00 in the evening.

I hate to sound like Debbie Downer on these things, but I can't help it. But I do realize you can't have a convention center complete with the street charms of 4th Avenue or G Street and because of this, I'm content with the center. I'm also pleased with the exterior (and interior) architecture of the building, which like the new museum, you can tell had no input from the majority Anchorage public (sorry guys -- but hey I was born here). Otherwise the building would look like something from the 80s with whales and mountains painted all over. The back of the convention center is indeed however, a nightmare. I especially feel sorry for the people in the small apartments across from it who have to see that monstrous site every morning.

BTW for those curious, events that have taken place this first year since its opening include Cedric the Entertainer, the International Beard and Moustache Competition, Damon Wayans, a Sarah Palin rally, AFN (twice now, sorry Fairbanks), the Oxygen & Octane Expo, a oil/climate change meeting with some of Obama's cabinet secretaries, and a barrage of events during the night that the state celebrated it's 50th in January among many smaller events. Here's to another successful year *cling*

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