Mid-Sized Convention Centers Continue Growth

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Tier III convention centers, those with prime exhibit space ranging from 125,000 to 349,999 square feet (sf), play an important role in meeting the needs of trade show and event organizers throughout North America. Nearly one-third of all convention centers in the United States, Canada and México are Tier III venues and are featured in Trade Show Executive’s World’s Top Convention Centers survey.

Tier III convention centers number 104 in North America. They comprise 33.5% of the continent’s 310 facilities while featuring 20,528,681 sf of prime exhibit space which is 28.2% of North America’s total prime exhibit space.

The U.S. features 90 Tier III convention centers, Canada offers 10 and México has four. This year the average midsized center in North America includes 197,391 sf of prime exhibit space, while the average U.S. Tier III convention center showcases 193,753 sf.

The median or midpoint of prime exhibit space for midsized North American centers is 185,000 sf. Two exhibit space amounts occur the most frequently: six facilities feature 200,000 sf of prime exhibit space and six offer 150,000 sf.

The states with the most midsized centers are California and Florida with eight each; Nevada and Texas have six each; and Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina report five each. Three states offer three midsized centers and ten states offer two. Seventeen states and Puerto Rico have one venue in this classification.

New Tier III venues completed during the past year include The Expo @ World Market Center Las Vegas and CAESARS FORUM, both located in Las Vegas, Nev. The Oklahoma City Convention Center, Oklahoma City, Okla., and the Resch Expo, Green Bay, Wis., are both slated to open in January of 2021. An expansion at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., moved this center from a Tier IV classification to Tier III in March 2020.

In 2021, several facilities will complete expansions but remain in the Tier III group. Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, N.C., will expand meeting space to 145,000 sf; Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, Fla., will grow to a yet to be determined amount of meeting and flex space; and SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, Sacramento, Calif., expands to 160,000 sf of prime exhibit space and 86,000 sf of meeting space.

Current expansions will transport the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City, S.D. and the Savannah Convention Center, Savannah, Ga. from the Tier IV category to Tier III when completed in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Some Tier III venues will move into Tier II when their expansions wrap: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (2021); Washington State Convention Center, Seattle, Wash. (2022); and National Western Complex, Denver, Colo. (2023).

With strategic locations and concise offerings of square footage, Tier III convention centers are a valuable option for trade show and event industry organizers, exhibitors and attendees.