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Civic Center: Boost Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va -- Anything that makes Charleston a more appealing "destination city" -- drawing shoppers, business executives, tourists, entertainment-seekers, convention-goers and others -- is beneficial.

Therefore, we think Mayor Danny Jones's plan for a major upgrade of the Civic Center deserves support.

Although the half-century-old center now draws more than 1 million visitors to nearly 4,000 events yearly, it can't compete with bigger super-centers in other cities. Charleston has lost $28 million in bookings and spinoff commerce because it lacks enough convention space, tourism official Jama Jarrett said.

The mayor wants to spend $45 million to $60 million to expand and refurbish the center, plus redo its exterior (which City Manager David Molgaard says looks like a "state prison").

To finance the project, Jones would impose a half-penny city sales tax to generate $6 million a year -- but also lower business taxes on manufacturers and retailers, leaving the city with a $3.5 million annual gain.

A half-penny tax is so tiny it wouldn't be noticed. Go for it, we say.

East End councilman Marc Weintraub said Mayor Jones has "looked long and hard" at the Civic Center's needs and "has come up with the most practical solution to this problem."

At-large councilman Andy Richardson added: "I view this as a jobs bill and a stimulus for downtown.  . . . I think the stronger our convention and visitor business is, the stronger our retail sales will be."

Charleston is West Virginia's capital and largest city. It's the teeming hub at the heart of the state, with interstate highways converging from five directions, plus an Appalachian Corridor. In addition to state government, it's augmented by shining features like the Clay Center, the Haddad Riverfront, the new baseball stadium and the proposed modernized library. Everything possible should be done to enhance the city's appeal.

So we hope the Civic Center upgrade gets a green light.


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