by Jonathan Vatner | December 01, 2004

Now that seemingly every large city with even a speck of meetings appeal has its own convention center, small cities are building facilities of their own in hopes of feasting on a slice of the convention pie.
    With the growing glut of convention space, these new facilities will have to focus heavily on marketing and service, says David Bobo, general manager of the new Greater Tacoma (Wash.) Convention and Trade Center. “If these centers think they can sit back and open the doors and rake in the money, they’ve got another thing coming,” he notes.
    Following is a sampling of the newest and most highly anticipated centers. Only time will tell if they become cash cows for their cities.

Alaska Civic and Convention CenterAlaska Civic and Convention Center
Anchorage, Alaska
(907) 276-4118;
Exhibit space: 50,000 square feet
Meeting space: 11,000 square feet (plus a 30,000-square-foot ballroom)
When it opens: Pending funding, opening is set for late 2008.
Why it might succeed: This isn’t Anchorage’s first foray into conventions. The smaller Egan Center is next to the site of the planned convention center and does a fine business.

Albany CountyConvention Center
Albany, N.Y.
(800) 258-3582;
Exhibit space: 85,000 square feet
Meeting space: 20,000 to 25,000 square feet (plus a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot ballroom)
When it opens: Not for a while. Next year, it is expected that Gov. George Pataki will sign a bill providing for a state commission that will appoint people to oversee development of the center.
Why it might succeed: Two feasibility studies have been done, one pre-9/11 and the other this May, both suggesting that a convention center in New York’s capital city will bring in a healthy dose of government groups, state associations and consumer shows.

Ardmore Convention Center
Ardmore, Okla.
(580) 226-2862;
Exhibit space: 25,000 square feet
Meeting space: 2,500 square feet
When it opened: August 2004
Why it might succeed: Ardmore is halfway between Oklahoma City and Dallas and thus offers a convenient meeting place for state associations and local corporations that don’t want to drive 100 miles. Already business is strong, says Marty Auten, convention center manager, and extensive marketing efforts haven’t even begun.

Bayfront Convention Center
Erie, Pa.
(814) 453-7117
Exhibit space: 30,000 square feet
Meeting space: 15,000 square feet (plus a 13,500-square-foot ballroom)
When it opens: May 2007
Why it might succeed: “This area isn’t the Rust Belt people seem to believe,” says Kevin R. Molloy, general manager of the Bayfront Convention Center. Molloy feels confident that the center with the help of a city that’s swiftly becoming more attendee-friendly will earn a spot on the rotation of the major state associations. Meetings from local hospitals, religious associations and sports groups should fill out the roster.