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New and Improved Convention Centers on the Horizon

Sandi Cain
, News Editor
October 1, 2015



Oceanside, CA - New and expanding convention centers often face a myriad of challenges, yet optimism continues to prevail based on the latest edition of Pardon Our Dust. There are 10 more proposed projects in the works compared to our last report in March, bringing the total to 31 projects in the early planning stages with at least 50,000 square feet (sf) of prime exhibit space on our radar.  

There are now 18 centers in the U.S. and Canada that are under construction; 5 are new builds and 13 are expansion projects. Yet some are moving along more slowly than anticipated, with at least half a dozen convention centers pushing back their expected completion dates either a little or a lot. That includes Oklahoma City, which pushed its completion date from 2019 to 2020 and Miami Worldcenter, which is part of a mega-complex that is now hoping to be complete in 2018. Here’s a closer look at the progress — or not — that has been made at some of the facilities in this edition of Pardon Our Dust.

Open for Business

Three convention centers listed in the March Pardon Our Dust are now complete. These include:

  • The New Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton added 25,000 sf of exhibit space to the Las Vegas inventory in March, expanding it’s prime exhibit space to 50,000 sf.
  • Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino unveiled nearly 350,000 sf of new exhibit and meeting space in August. The venue now boasts 1,045,295 sf of prime exhibit space and 1,002,204 sf of meeting space.
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City added 100,000 sf of prime exhibit space in August in a city that last year saw the closure of several casinos. It will host the 2016 World Education Congress staged by Meeting Professionals International. 

On the Cusp

A dozen other projects already are under construction and due for completion either in 2016 or early 2017 as of now. Among those are: 

  • Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, IN, will debut its expansion on January 1, 2016 sporting 41,000 sf of meeting space and 17,440 sf of flex space.  It will welcome its first group on January 2, noted Randy Brown, executive vice president and general manager.
  • The Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio is adding 75,000 sf of prime exhibit space and roughly 15,000 sf of meeting space that will be ready in early 2016.
  • The RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg in Manitoba will gain 53,000 sf of prime space and 47,000 sf of meeting space that also will debut early next year.
  • Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, a $20 million venture designed for small to mid-sized events, is nearing completion of its expansion to 181,000 sf of meeting space. It will offer a 24,000 sf ballroom and a 39,000 sf open-air terrace overlooking the harbor.
  • U.S. Bank Stadium, on the site of the old Metrodome in Minneapolis, will debut next July as the home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The fixed-roof facility is designed to accommodate a wide variety of other events, including trade shows. It will also host the 2018 Super Bowl.
  • The new Halifax Convention Centre in Nova Scotia, which will replace the existing convention center, is under construction and on track to open in early 2017.
  • The renovation of the west building at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando is nearing completion. The renovation will add 48,000 sf of flex space and 5,000 sf of meeting space to its configuration.
  • Anaheim Convention Center faced an earlier legal challenge to the bond financing on its expansion project that resulted in a brief delay and is now on track for completion in Q2 2017. The project will expand the venue’s flex space to 200,000 sf.
  • The Las Vegas Arena, a new build launched just over a year ago through a partnership between AEG and MGM Resorts International, is nevertheless expected to be completed next year.
  • In Houston, the George R. Brown Convention Center is reconfiguring its space including construction of an interior concourse. When the project is complete in 2016, the venue will feature 773,000 sf of prime exhibit space, 129,000 sf of meeting space and 90,000 sf of flex space. 

Nearly There

  • Miami Beach Convention Center finally appears to be on track and plans to have its new convention center done by 2018 despite being pushed back by other development at the mixed-use project known as Miami Worldcenter. Its 500,000+ sf of prime exhibit space and 190,000 sf of meeting space is expected to give the city a boost for trade shows and conventions. The proposed 800-room headquarters hotel, however, was pushed back in early September by the city council, which decided to postpone a public vote concerning the land lease from November to next March after a voter poll by the private developer indicated the measure was unlikely to pass in November.
  • The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which ranked fourth on this year’s Millionaire’s Club list, will benefit from a new stadium for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons on the same campus as the convention center, the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park. General manager Mark Zimmerman said the new Atlanta Falcons Stadium will help bring new large-scale and prestigious events to the campus facilities when it opens in 2017.
  • The Warriors Sports & Entertainment Center in San Francisco got a boost when plans were unveiled in December. Though it replaces the Oracle Arena in Oakland for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, the new center will be situated at Mission Bay in San Francisco and is privately funded. The 18,000-seat arena also is envisioned to host conventions and will include a view deck, public space, waterfront park, retail/restaurant options and office laboratory commercial buildings. Officials say the building will be ready for the 2018-2019 NBA season.
  • The Moscone Center expansion in San Francisco will increase prime exhibit space from 442,000 sf to 515,000 sf. While in the site preparation phase, construction is expected to be complete by 2018.

Shovel Ready

  • The long-delayed and still controversial Gaylord Rockies Hotel & Conference Center in Aurora, CO broke ground in April despite ongoing controversy over how much — if any — tax incentive money would still be granted for the $824 million project after Houston developer RIDA and Marriott took over primary responsibility for the 1,500-room resort. The state attorney general ruled that $81 million in tax incentives belonged to the developer as soon as ground was broken. The city has backed away from an appeal over the election process that permitted the development, but 11 other area hoteliers still are pursuing their appeal.
  • The Pueblo Convention Center in Colorado will start construction in 2016 on its expansion that will add 40,000 sf of meeting space, more than doubling its current size. The expansion includes a new exhibit hall and breakout rooms. The effort is part of an urban renewal effort at Riverwalk that also will include a training area for Professional Bull Riders University and enhancement of the Medal of Honor Walk of Valor.
  • The Kentucky International Convention Center is expandingby 60,000 sf to 251,000 sf of prime exhibit space. Beginning in August 2016, the building will close for two years while construction is underway. In addition to expanded exhibit space, the venue will have a new 40,000 sf ballroom and updated technology and renovated meeting space when complete in August 2018.
  • The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio was set to begin its $125 million expansion and renovation in September with an expected completion date of July 2017. The project includes adding 36,000 sf of exhibit space and 10,000 sf of two-level meeting space along with features that will enable it to be considered for LEED certification. Parking and other improvements already are in process.

Facing Financial/Legal Hurdles

  • The $200 million (Canadian) expansion of Evraz Place in Regina, Saskatchewan would add a second Eventplex building, but is facing pushback over the type of funding officials plan to use to complete the project, claiming it will deplete the city’s reserves. The expansion would add roughly 120,000 sf of exhibition space and be connected to the Canada Centre Building. 
  • Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center officials in New York are hoping to use upstate revitalization funds but are awaiting a decision by the state governing entity about those funds. If approved, the $100 million project would add 60,000 sf of space, including a 20,000 sf ballroom to the center.
  • The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center seemed to be on track, but the new governor, Charlie Baker, nixed that idea in order to review the budgeting and financing options before work begins.

Still a Long and Winding Road

  • Plans for the closed Henry J. Kaiser Center in Oakland are still in a state of flux. The property reverted to the city in 2012 and faced prolonged discussion about what to do with it. As of May, the city was seeking a developer for the renovation.
  • The Meadowlands Sport Complex in New Jersey last year was proposed as the site of a $1.2 billion project that would include two hotels, a convention center, and retail and entertainment options.
  • An expansion for the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Florida earlier this year was put in a holding pattern in favor of a new arena. Officials are in the middle of the procurement process for a developer and have asked developers to include proposals for an adjoining hotel, according to Alan Cohen, assistant to the county administrator. Cohen said they hope to break ground next Spring on the 300,000 sf addition with a target completion date between late 2018 and early 2020. 
  • The Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu seemed poised for a long planning cycle after the city’s consultants — AECOM, WCIT Architecture and Lincoln Center Global — staged public forums about the future use of the building. The meetings resulted in a wide disparity of options, including razing the building for alternate uses.
  • The Las Vegas Convention Center expansion is still making progress as part of the massive 25-year plan for the Global Business District that city envisions to connect the center with the Strip and Downtown. In all, 1.8 million-sf will be added to the convention center, some in Phase 1 of the project. Construction projects tend to move quickly in Las Vegas once they are green-lighted.

Reach Alan Cohen at (954) 357-7364 or; Mark Zimmerman at (404) 223-4200 or; Karen Williams, president & CEO, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau at (502) 584-2121 or