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:: RETURN TO FRONTPAGE NEWS ::
April 30, 2005
EBay moves gala from S.J.
SANTA CLARA GETS CONVENTION EVENT
By Tracey Kaplan
The loss of the Saturday night event, originally set to take place in the enormous tent being erected behind San Jose's convention center, is a slap to downtown San Jose business owners who were counting on spillover traffic from attendees eager to keep partying. The June 25 dinner will be held instead at the Santa Clara Convention Center, a competing venue.
But San Jose boosters said the good news is the tent will now be used for three days as a backstage area, including child care for the conventioneers, rather than just for one gala dinner. And they pointed out that many of the up to 10,000 eBay Live! attendees will still rent rooms in San Jose hotels, the source of the most revenue from the event.
``It's no comment on the tent facility,'' said Jim Cunneen, president and CEO of San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. ``That tent is going to play the role it was intended and attract new conventions. But is it going to attract every single social event? No.''
Largely because of the expense, the $6.77 million tent has been controversial ever since Mayor Ron Gonzales proposed it last year to capture big trade shows the city has missed because of the limited size of its convention center. Rumors circulated Friday that the tent was too austere for eBay's taste.
But a spokesman for eBay said the firm decided to move the dinner solely because the tent turned out to be the only place available nearby to stage the convention, hold meetings, and feed about 3,000 employees. EBay has never faced the problem before because for the past nine years, its annual trade show has been held outside the Bay Area and attracted fewer employees, said eBay spokesman Henry Gomez.
``The problem we were having is we could not find a place to house these employees in San Jose,'' Gomez said. ``So we thought, `Why not use the tent? It's perfect.' ''
But as positively as city officials tried to spin the change, it means San Jose convention center officials are going to have to work far harder to convince eBay attendees to come back from the dinner in Santa Clara and spend money at San Jose bars and nightclubs downtown.
Dan Fenton, president and CEO of the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau will run free shuttle buses staffed by workers who will hand out coupons for free drinks and other deals, and promote downtown venues like the Improv over bus microphones.
The city could also host an after-dinner party at San Pedro Square or the South of Market Street area, Fenton said.
``It's almost like what we're going to do is give them a plan to continue partying after the gala dinner,'' Fenton said. ``The tradition, according to eBay, is people keep going.''
The head of Santa Clara's convention center, Steve Van Dorn, said the city is sympathetic to San Jose's predicament and will not try to get conventioneers to stay in Santa Clara.
``We're going to host the dinner and get them bused back so they'll go and party in San Jose,'' Van Dorn said.
But Santa Clara Councilman Jamie Matthews couldn't resist rubbing a bit of salt in the loser's wounds. He said he hopes some eBay folks will stick around.
``I hope they go right across the street to Great America,'' Matthews said, ``and have a wonderful time.''Posted by Coalition Webbies at April 30, 2005 04:00 PM