Rochester Convention Center escalator glitch highlights need for upgrades

July 20, 2017 08:36 PM

Rochester tourism leaders said a malfunction that shut down escalators at the Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center was just the latest sign of the center's need for an extensive, big budget, renovation.

"Kind of miffed. It got me upset," declared Jim May of Greece who took his grandchildren to last weekend's dinosaur show at the center. "Throngs of people but none of the escalators were working, from the escalator in the garage, escalators on the walkway down to the convention floor."

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The escalators raised alarms in May when one of the metal steps simply fractured and dropped out of an escalator, a potentially catastrophic mishap if anyone had been riding on it. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the incident prompted the shutdown of all 10 of the convention center's escalators for evaluation by the convention center escalator contractor, a process that continued Thursday.

"They're all the same age," explained Executive Director James Brown. "They get run about the same amount of time and so they should all be looked at. “

Brown said that, at more than 30 years old, the escalators were near the end of their normal expected lifespan and that much of the convention center faced similar obsolescence as it tries to compete for major events with more than 400 other convention centers in other cities.

"Lots of buildings that were built during this time frame, the early '80s, are all reaching those 25, 30 year life expectancies," he said. "So a lot of those buildings around the country are modernizing and expanding."

"I wish it looked newer, more modern," said Don Jeffries, President of Visit Rochester. "They've done a good job of keeping up with some of the stuff but it's a very expensive proposition.”

As a guest, May agreed. "I'm thinking how do they intend to impress anyone coming here with a convention or any large group of people if they can't even maintain the building?" he asked.

Brown estimated replacing all 10 of the convention center's aging escalators would cost around $1 million but put the price of a full modernization and expansion project at closer to $100 million.

Such a price he said would be well beyond anything the City of Rochester could manage but only a fraction of the $1.5 billion the state recently committed to upgrading the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. Brown said the summer months after the end of the state legislative session could actually be an opportune time for city leaders and the area's state representatives to make a pitch for such a big capital project.

"The governor will be deciding his list of budget items for next year," he said. "So I think we are in a good position in mid-summer to try and get his attention over the next couple of months and hopefully get included in some kind of ask."


Charles Molineaux

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