Cincinnati Explores Convention Center Expansion


An expansion to Cincinnati's Duke Energy Convention Center will be a major point to address this year, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune. Portune called for the upgrade yesterday at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitor Bureau's annual meeting.

"As president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, I call on my fellow commissioners to join me in a commitment to expanding the convention center in a way that makes sense for the county, the city and the taxpayers of each," Portune said at the event.

The convention center, which was renovated in 2006, hasn't been significantly expanded in nearly 30 years. Its 196,000 square feet of contiguous space makes it the smallest convention venue among 10 of the cities with which it competes most for events - Detroit (623,000 square feet), Indianapolis (566,600), Columbus (373,000), Pittsburgh (313,400) and Louisville (200,000) among them.

"Some groups that were Cincinnati mainstays have outgrown the Duke Energy Convention Center," said Jim McGraw, the newly elected chairman of the CVB's board of directors. "A larger center would allow our region to retain more meetings and bid on larger meetings, conventions and trade shows we cannot host today." It would also pave the way for hosting multiple meetings simultaneously, added CVB president and CEO Dan Lincoln.

Based on the research conducted by several specialized firms, Cincinnati's convention center would require about 100,000 additional square feet in exhibition space and a new headquarters hotel to compete more effectively against comparable destinations. Such an expansion project would result in more than 700 new permanent jobs, more than $7.5 million in new annual tax revenue and an additional $26.4 million in visitor spending annually, according to the University of Cincinnati's Economic Center.

Tourism currently brings 24 million visitors and $4.4 billion to the city annually, based on data from the convention and visitors bureau.