- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Greater Boise Auditorium District has announced plans to partner with the Gardner Company to create more convention space by expanding the Boise Centre.

Officials, including Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Gardner Company Chief Operating Officer Tommy Ahlquist and the Auditorium District Board, made the announcement Thursday.

“Currently we can compete for 20 percent of the convention market around the country,” said Pat Rice, executive director of the auditorium district. “With this amount of meeting space and added hotel capacity, we have the potential to compete for 70 percent of the convention market in the United States.”

Plans call for two new buildings with about 43,000 square feet of space for meetings and a kitchen to be built on the parking lot around the U.S. Bank building owned by the Gardner Company.

The Gardner Company also built Idaho’s newest tallest building at 8th and Main streets across the intersection from the U.S. Bank building.

Officials said the Greater Boise Auditorium District has most of the money for the proposed project. The money comes from bed taxes on hotels.

“We will also make sure this deal is financially sound,” said Hy Kloc with the auditorium district. “One point I want to make clear is that no property tax money is used in the expansion.”

Officials said the expansion will cost $25 million. Auditorium district officials say they already have $21 million on hand.

The district has signed a letter of intent to signal its interest in partnering with Gardner. The letter isn’t legally binding, said Rice, but is a significant step forward.

“It’s full commitment by the district to say ‘We’re moving forward now,’” Rice said. “Now it’s simply getting into the details - hiring the architects, hiring the project managers, working out these agreements, getting into a contract. So the (letter) is a huge deal.”

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