There have been many companies that have wanted to host large scale business conventions in New Haven. Such conventions would have brought hundreds of new visitors to the city and increased the income for many area businesses. Unfortunately, there has not been space available in New Haven for such a convention.

But this situation might eventually change. The New Haven Hotel, located at 229 George St., is considering a proposal to turn an adjacent property under the ownership of the hotel into a convention center. The plan, which is still in its early stages, calls for a 30,000 square foot convention center with an approximate capacity of 700 people. The center would be connected with the hotel.

The preliminary drawing of the conference center calls for a 4,000 square foot ballroom with banquet seating for 280 guests and theater seating for 420. The plan also includes a 3,800 square foot receiving area or “pre-function” space that would serve to welcome guests to the various events.

In addition to the ballroom, the center will also include six other meeting rooms with 3,000 square feet of capacity each. The plan also includes a business center with fax, e-mail and secretarial services.

“I think this project has been a recommendation from a lot of different venues: the city of New Haven; the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce; the Greater New Haven Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; and, of course, Yale would always look for more conference space,” said Steven Nigro, general manager of the New Haven Hotel.

The proposal for the convention center is part of a long-term plan by the New Haven Hotel to attract more business travelers. As part of the plan, the hotel is currently installing high speed Internet access in all of its rooms. But the hotel is also interested in facilitating increased economic development in New Haven.

“[The convention center] would impact the hotel in greater occupancy rates,” Nigro said. “There would be tremendous overflow that would also benefit other area hotels. It would also impact area businesses.”

Although there has been no timetable set for the construction or completion of the convention center, the project has already received the enthusiastic endorsement of several city officials.

“Anecdotally, there seemed to be demand for additional meeting space for New Haven,” said Bruce Alexander, vice president for New Haven and state affairs. “Additional visitors and travelers to New Haven would stimulate the economy and create jobs.”

But some city officials have suggested that the events of Sept. 11 may discourage business travelers from attending large conventions.

Although Nigro acknowledged the possibility of terrorist threats, he was optimistic that there would not be any serious security concerns.

“Everyone is on a heightened state of alert about travel,” Nigro said. “The way we view travel will forever be changed by the events of September the 11th. I don’t think there will be any security issues.”