Get used to the sound of jackhammers. A
number of cities across North America have cast aside any concerns
about overbuilding and are investing many millions of dollars in
renovating and expanding their convention facilities. The following
is a state-by-state rundown of recent activity.
Anchorage broke ground on an expansion
of the William A. Egan Civic & Convention
Center (907-263-2800; www.egancenter.com) this April. When work is
finished around spring 2009, the $103 million facility will offer
meeting space for groups of up to 5,000 people. New features will
include canopies, better lighting, protected vestibule entrances
and heated sidewalks lined with trees. The sidewalks will link the
expanded facility to the Alaska Performing Arts Center.
The Phoenix Civic Plaza has been
renamed the Phoenix Convention Center
(800-282-4842; www.phoenixconventioncenter.com). A $600
million project, to finish in 2009, will increase exhibit space at
the center from 302,000 square feet to 872,000. The new West
Conference Center, with 156,000 square feet of exhibit space,
including a 62,000-square-foot exhibition hall and 32 meeting
rooms, opens this month. The rest of the project involves
demolishing the current North Building and replacing it with a
The Pasadena Conference
Center (626-793-2122; www.pasadenacal.com/faciliti.htm) is gearing up for
the first phase of an expansion that will include the implosion of
Mishima Plaza to make way for a new 60,000-square-foot ballroom. A
second phase adds a 160,768-square-foot exhib-it hall, while the
final phase will renovate an existing conference center. Also in
the works is a restoration of the Civic Auditorium lobby and
transformation of the ice rink into another ballroom.
Halfway up the coast, the Santa
Clara Convention Center (408-748-7000; www.santaclara.org/conventioncenter) has spent
$100,000 to add a new dividing wall to its 50,000-square-foot
exhibit hall. The center also will expand its exhibit space by
24,000 square feet by June 2008.
A $63 million expansion of Daytona
Beach’s Ocean Center Convention & Entertainment
Complex (800-858-6444; www.oceancenter.com) is in blueprints. Work started
this April, but construction is likely to be delayed due to various
issues concerning the bidding process. The city remains confident
the enlarged facility will debut in 2007. Plans call for exhibit
space to be doubled to approximately 100,000 square feet, while
meeting rooms will number 22. The existing facility has a
46,000-square-foot arena for sports and concerts, while across the
road on the beach is the affiliated, expanded Ocean Walk Village,
with 1,300 guest rooms and 200,000 square feet of meeting
In West Palm Beach,
the $84 million, 350,000-square-foot Palm
Beach County Convention Center (800-833-5733; www.palmbeachfl.com/conventioncenter) opened in
January 2004. The facility has 100,000 square feet of exhibit
space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 23,000 square feet of
meeting space. Coming soon: Westin will manage a 400-room
headquarters property, to open in early 2008 with a spa and a
ballroom of its own.
Changes north of the border
include a major expansion at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre (604-689-8232; www.vanconex.com
), which will triple its event capacity by autumn 2008, making the venue fully functional for the 2010 Winter Olympics. As part of the project, the center’s exhibit, meeting and ballroom capacities will grow from 40,682 to a total 157,050 square feet. Work includes the construction of new facilities on the Burrard Landing Site, west of Canada Place; the renovation of existing leased space within Canada Place; and the linking of the two sites to form an integrated convention and exhibition center.
Currently, the center offers more than 150,000 square feet of flexible function space, including 91,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space, a 16,600-square-foot ballroom and 20 meeting rooms. The venue has 55 events booked into the new space between its opening and 2018.
In Toronto, the million-square-foot Direct Energy Centre (416-263-3000; www.ntc.on.ca
), formerly the National Trade Centre, will add a new hotel and a 75,000-square-foot conference facility to be connected via a pedestrian link. The conference venue is scheduled for a spring 2007 opening. -- B.D.
Already one of the largest convention
centers in the world, Chicago’s vast McCormick
Place (312-791-7000; www.mccormickplace.com), which now offers 2.2 million
square feet of exhibit space and 112 meeting rooms, is set to
enlarge once again. To open in late 2007, the new McCormick Place
West wing will add 470,000 square feet of exhibit space, 250,000
square feet of meeting space and a 100,000-square-foot
The Indiana Convention
Center (317-262-3400; www.iccrd.com) started work last September on
the adjacent Lucas Oil Stadium, to be the new home of the
Indianapolis Colts football team. Designed with conventions in
mind, the stadium will have 63,000 seats and a retractable roof.
Once completed in fall 2008, the RCA Dome (the Colts’ current
arena, also near the center) will be demolished to make way for a
convention center expansion. The upgraded facility, along with the
stadium, will offer a total 733,700 square feet of exhibit space,
including 10 exhibit halls, nearly doubling the current space. The
estimated cost for both projects is $900 million. Officials expect
to attract an additional 25 to 30 major shows to Indianapolis each
The Kentucky Exposition
Center (502-367-5000; www.kyfairexpo.org) in Louisville unveiled its
new South Wing C last October. The $52 million extension added
237,000 square feet of function space for a new total of 425,700.
Work now begins on the East Wing to revamp 215,000 square feet of
In Covington, the Northern
Kentucky Convention Center (859-261-1500; www.nkycc.com) is
undergoing re-novations that began last June and will finish this
month. Among other changes, the $400,000 project will reconfigure
the 46,200-square-foot exhibition hall.
The state’s convention centers played
roles they were never intended for in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina. Many facilities, even if not in the direct path of the
storm, were strained to the limit due to the extraordinary ways
they were called upon to help people in need.
The Baton Rouge River
Center (225-389-3030; www.brrivercenter.com), in the state’s capital, was
closed for three months to regular convention business and reopened
last November. The center has approximately 100,000 square feet of
New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial
Convention Center (504-582-3027; www.mccno.com) is going
full-speed ahead with its Phase IV expansion. Indeed, almost at the
same time the center partially reopened in February (with the
remaining current space set to reopen by this November), city
officials signed a $315 million contract for the expansion.
Construction will begin in September and end in January 2009. Plans
include an additional 524,000 square feet of exhibit space in two
halls, 61 new meeting rooms and a 60,000-square-foot ballroom. When
finished, the convention center will have a total of 1.6 million
square feet of exhibit space, three ballrooms, 201 meeting rooms
and a 4,000-seat auditorium. As of press time, 32 events has been
booked for the facility for 2006, including 19 scheduled after the
hurricane struck, involving approximately 200,000 hotel room
Shreveport Convention Center (318-841-4000; www.shreveportcenter.com) opened in January. The
facility features a 100,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall;
10 meeting rooms; and the 18,000-square-foot Captain Shreve
Ballroom, named for the city’s founder. An adjacent 14-story,
316-room hotel, to be managed by Hilton, will open in early
The Boston Convention &
Exhibition Center (617-954-2000; www.mccahome.com/bcec.html) now is linked to the
793-room Westin Boston Waterfront, which opened in June. The center
has 516,000 square feet of exhibit space, plus a 40,020-square-foot
ballroom. The hotel offers two ballrooms, measuring 15,000 and
4,000 square feet, respectively, as well as a 7,000-square-foot
terrace for groups and 7,200 square feet of prefunction space.
In Springfield, 90 miles southwest of
Boston, the MassMutual Center (413-787-6610; www.massmutualcenter.com) opened last September. The
$71 million facility features 40,000 square feet of exhibit space,
a 14,880-square-foot ballroom and five meeting rooms. Next door is
the Springfield Civic Center, which opened in 1972 and also
received a makeover at the time of the center’s debut.
The Mississippi capital of Jackson is anticipating the
fall 2008 opening of its $65 million Capital City
Convention Center (601-353-9800; www.downtown-jackson.com). The first phase of the
project, the Mississippi TelCom Center (right), opened in January
in a neighborhood of the city now known as the Convention District.
This conference facility offers approximately 30,000 square feet of
meeting space, including 13 meeting rooms and a 382-seat theater.
The convention center itself, which will connect to the TelCom
Center, will have approximately 90,000 square feet of meeting and
function space of its own.
According to Wanda Collier-Wilson,
president and CEO of the Jackson Con-vention & Visitors Bureau,
“We’ve needed this center for a long time. It has been in the works
for the last five years, and it will give us the opportunity to
increase our group size from a maximum of 1,000 to double or triple
that. We now can appeal to regional and national business.”
Plans also call for new restaurants and
shops in the area. The Mississippi Arts Center Complex, which
includes the existing Mississippi Museum of Art and Russell C.
Davis Planetarium, will be incorporated into the new district.
Also creating a new meetings district
is Branson, already known for its varied entertainment options and
family vacation appeal. Opening in early 2007 is the
Branson Convention Center (800-526-3464; www.bransonlanding.com) and the adjacent Hilton
Promenade Hotel, in an area called Branson Landing. The
220,000-square-foot convention center, to stretch 1.5 miles along
Lake Taneycomo, will have a 23,000-square-foot ballroom and two
50,000-square-foot exhibit halls, while the hotel will offer 233
rooms and 2,000 square feet of meeting space. The 293-room Hilton
Branson Convention Center Hotel will open later in 2007, serving as
the facility’s headquarters property. The hotel will offer 450,000
square feet of shopping and dining options, along with an outside
events area called Town Hall able to accommodate up to 5,000
Currently in the midst of a $135
million expansion and renovation is the Kansas City
Convention Center (816-513-5000; www.kcconvention.com). The venue’s arena and
388,800-square-foot exhibit hall already have been revamped, and a
46,000-square-foot ballroom will open in 2007. Planners will find
new audiovisual equipment as well as a business center. The center
currently has 389,000 square feet of exhibit space, 98,000 square
feet of meeting space and 23,900 square feet of ballroom space.
This past February, the Las Vegas
Convention & Visitors Authority’s board of directors approved a
$1.4 billion expansion for the Las Vegas Convention
Center (702-892-0711; www.lvcva.com/meetings), with construction due to
begin by the end of this year. Work should be completed by the end
of 2010. City officials have approved the addition of an
unspecified number of meeting rooms to the center’s South Hall; a
new and expansive lobby connecting the existing Central, North and
South halls; an additional 255,000 square feet of exhibit space,
and an enclosed walkway that will link to the Las Vegas Monorail.
In addition, plans call for a renovation of the existing
In March, Charlotte was chosen to be
the site for the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, a $154.5 million project
that also will include a significant expansion of the adjacent
Charlotte Convention Center (704-339-6000; www.charlotteconventionctr.com), which currently has
280,000 square feet of exhibit space. Exact details of the
expansion have not been determined, but plans will include a
ballroom connecting the center to the hall of fame. NASCAR plans to
move its headquarters to a 300,000-square-foot office at the site.
All work is due to be completed in 2009 and will be paid for by a 2
percent increase of the city hotel-room tax, to 8.5 percent.
In the state’s capital, the new Raleigh
Convention & Conference Center Complex (919-831-6011;
www.raleighconvention.com), left, broke ground in
February, replacing a 1977 property of the same name on the site.
To open in spring 2008, the center will have 150,000 square feet of
exhibit space, 16 meeting rooms and a 32,000-square-foot ballroom
for up to 2,400 people. To open at the same time will be the
400-room Raleigh Marriott City Center-Convention Center with a
In Cincinnati, the Cinergy Center
(800-543-2613; www.cincyusa.com) changed its name to the Duke
Energy Center following completion of a $160 million
expansion and renovation last month. Managed by the city, the
enlarged facility now spans 750,000 square feet and has more than
200,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space; approximately
100,000 square feet of meeting space; and two ballrooms measuring
40,000 and 17,400 square feet, respectively. Up to 5,000 people can
gather here for events.
Dan Lincoln, who was named president
and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau
in April, says the expansion will attract “a lot of the meetings
that have outgrown the city. We now can aim for 75 percent of the
U.S. market, targeting major companies such as John Deere &
Co., which is coming here in August 2007.”
In downtown Philadelphia, the
Pennsylvania Convention Center (215-418-4700; www.paconvention.com) is planning to undergo an
expansion that will nearly double the size of the facility. The new
center will have approximately 541,000 square feet of contiguous
exhibit space, with 87 meeting rooms and a second ballroom,
bringing total ballroom space to 93,000 square feet. As with
Cincinnati, the expansion here will enable the center to host
multiple conventions. While the starting date and total cost for
the project are still pending, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G.
Rendell presented an initial check for $16 million to center
officials in January.
A $62 million renovation will finish in late 2008 at
the 14,000-seat Dunkin’ Donuts Center, primarily used for concerts
and sports. Part of the work calls for eliminating one wall of the
adjacent Rhode Island Convention Center
(401-458-6000; www.riconvention.com) to join the two venues. The
convention facility has 100,000 square feet of exhibit space as
well as 23 meeting rooms.
Not far from the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, the Galinburg Convention Center
completed an expansion last March that gave the venue a new total
of approximately 278,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
Features include 50,000 square feet of additional ballroom and
auditorium space at the Mills Complex, which adjoins the convention
A $58 million expansion of Salt Lake City’s
Salt Palace Convention Center (801-534-4777; www.saltpalace.com) is on target to be completed next
month. New to the facility will be Hall 5, a 145,000-square-foot
exhibit space, giving the venue a total of 515,000 square feet for
exhibits. In addition, the center is adding 64,000 square feet of
meeting space, for an overall total of 88,830 square feet. The
facility also features a 45,000-square-foot ballroom. Salt Palace’s
last expansion was completed a decade ago.
Debuting in January this year was the
Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center at Celebrate
Virginia (540-548-5555; www.fredericksburgexpocenter.com) on the banks of the
Rappahannock River. The 116,000-square-foot property is the first
part of a multiuse area called Celebrate Virginia that will
comprise a variety of restaurants, hotels (including a Hilton
Garden Inn), shops, entertainment venues and the U.S. National
Slavery Museum. Work on those aspects of the project will be
completed by summer 2007. Meanwhile, the convention center is
hosting groups in 80,000 square feet of exhibit space, a
10,000-square-foot ballroom and a 15,000-square-foot conference
center with 12 meeting rooms.
“Being midway between Richmond [Va.]
and Washington, D.C., definitely has been the catalyst for
expansion,” says Sam Voisin, general manager of the Fredericksburg
center. “We now can go after some regional events, as well as
cement our state association business. We have 206 events in 2006,
and we feel things can only get better.”
Other big news for the state is the soft opening of the
$202.5 million Virginia Beach Convention Center
(757-437-4700; www.vbfun.com/conventioncenter), which should
be fully completed by early next year. A first phase opened last
August, featuring more than 300,000 square feet of function space,
including 55,600 square feet of exhibit space and 20,000 square
feet of meeting space, as well as a 150-foot-tall observation tower
and a 31,029-square-foot ballroom. The remainder of the facility
will include 150,000 square feet of exhibit space and 28,929 square
feet of meeting space, for a grand total of 516,522 square feet.
The center replaces the old Virginia Beach Pavilion, the city’s
original convention venue, which had just 188,000 square feet of
The expansion of the Spokane
Convention Center (509-279-7000; www.spokanecenter.com) continues, with the
100,160-square-foot Group Health Exhibit Hall opening this fall.
Scheduled among the first of the facility’s major events is the
U.S. Figure Skating Championships, slated for next January. The new
space is adjacent to the center, which will close temporarily this
fall for an expansion and renovation that will triple the current
available space by the end of next year.