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CHALLENGING DALLAS CONVENTIONS

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A year ago, Dallas looked ready to depose Chicago as the U.S.’s convention leader, but insiders say the city has slipped in its quest for convention business.

Although Dallas will play host to an estimated 1620 conventions through the current fiscal year (a slight increase from last year), the city has begun to look less attractive to some of the big organizations whose conventions mean so much economically and prestige-wise to the city. The National Association of Home Builders and a national organization of supermarket executives, both of which have held yearly conventions here, will not be back next year.

Members of both organizations have complained of a lack of hotel space downtown, outdated convention facilities, poor transportation connections between outlying hotels and the convention center, and a dearth of entertainment in the downtown area for conventioneers after dark.

At the recent supermarket convention, some delegates had to be housed as far away as the Amfac Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Those delegates were dependent on ill-timed bus service between the airport and the convention center.

Three years ago, Dallas came close to toppling Chicago from the number one seat when many national organizations began avoiding Chicago because Illinois had not passed the Equal Rights Amendment. That boycott movement has passed, and Chicago has again gained its hold on the top spot. The Chicago Convention Bureau estimates it will host more than 2000 conventions during the current fiscal year. Dallas is third, after New York, but is facing stiff challenges from Detroit, Minneapolis, Houston, and Los Angeles, all of which have new convention facilities that make the Dallas Convention Center look dated.

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