The Georgia World Congress
Center before the storm
After a tornado tore
through Atlanta on March 14, the Georgia World Congress Center
closed for a week, sending planners and their conventioneers
scrambling. The nearby Westin Peachtree Plaza and the Omni Hotel at
the CNN Center also closed a number of rooms, resulting in a
relocation of multiple groups.
The Clinical Laboratory Management
Association was forced to cancel its three-day ThinkLab ’08
Conference and Exhibition at the GWCC. The event was expected to
draw more than 2,200 attendees, 140 speakers and 220 exhibitors.
“We weren’t able to see our meeting space because of the damage and
safety issues,” said Mark John, the association’s COO, who made a
site inspection a few days after the storm. John noted standing
water, holes in the roof and blown-out windows in the hall that the
group had planned to use.
“They have a monumental situation on
their hands,” John said. Due to a tightly packed schedule, the GWCC
was not able to accommodate the group at a later date.
At press time, the cost of damages to
the city, which a report by the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution estimated at approximately $100 million,
was still being assessed.
Officials from the Atlanta Convention
and Visitors Bureau and the GWCC said in a teleconference a few
days after the storm that their primary goals were “to keep
business in Atlanta, keep groups up-to-date and to accommodate
GWCC officials estimated that repairs
would be completed by this month. “Rebuilding is going extremely
well,” said Mark Zimmerman, the facility’s general manager, who
added that hundreds of workers have assisted in reconstruction and
cleanup of the center, which also had its two decorative Hermes
towers (in the shape of Olympic torches) blown over by the
Conventions that were postponed or
canceled included the Atlanta Home Show, the Central Atlanta
Progress Meeting and the 96th Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting.
Other events, such as the ING Georgia
Marathon and Fitness Expo and the Southeastern Conference’s Men’s
Basketball Tournament, were relocated to various nearby venues.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution Auto Show (April 19-27), First Robotics (April
16-19) and the DECA International Career Development Con-ference
(April 26-29) all took place as originally scheduled.