City officials in San Diego authorized the acquisition of six acres of land near the San Diego Convention Center, clearing the way for a major expansion of the center. The expansion is aimed at keeping large events, such as Comic-Con International, in the city. After being held in San Diego annually since 1970, the comic book fan fest has outgrown the center and is considering other venues.

The approximately $13 million land purchase from Fifth Avenue Landing LLC by the Unified Port of San Diego is a key piece in plans to add more than 1.2 million square feet to the center. The expansion would include 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting rooms, 80,000 square feet of multipurpose ballrooms, and 40,000 square feet of retail space, along with additional service and support space. The expansion would cost about $753 million and increase the size of the convention center by roughly one-third, officials said.

"This is a major milestone in our efforts to expand this regional economic engine, which has transformed San Diego into a world-class meeting and convention destination,” said Bob Nelson, chairman of the San Diego Convention Center Corp.’s board of directors. “As our recent efforts to secure future bookings of Comic-Con International demonstrates, we need more space to keep our most valued clients and ensure San Diego remains a top choice for conventions into the next several decades."

"Our current size is limiting our ability on many levels because we lack enough meeting space to meet market demand. We have lost or turned away 381 events in recent years because of lack of space or available dates. An expansion would allow us to accommodate 89 percent of that lost business," added Carol Wallace, president and chief executive officer, SDCCC.

The project took on a sense of urgency when officials at Comic-Con, which attracts about 125,000 attendees and is booked in San Diego through 2012, stated that they were considering moving to larger venue for its next contract, according to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Comic-Con officials are expected to make a decision on the next contract by early May.

City officials said the acquisition is a critical step forward, but additional approvals and steps are required before ground breaking can take place. If all goes according to plan, construction will start in 2012.