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Convention Centers Move Forward with Projects and Secure Certifications

By M+E Staff

While sifting through incoming emails and reading news items over the past several months, it has become clear that there is a lot going on with convention centers around the nation. Here is just a sampling with updates from Dallas, St. Louis, Denver, Savannah, Miami Beach, and Houston.

In February, the Dallas City Council approved plans for a new 2.5-million-square-foot convention center located adjacent to the current Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas. The new center will feature 800,000 square feet of exhibit space and 400,000 square feet of breakout space, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. Construction on the $2 billion center is expected to begin in 2024 and wrap up in 2028. Outdoor event terraces with views of Trinity River and downtown Dallas and a welcoming entry and lobby also will provide space for activities and programming. The surrounding Convention Center District will connect downtown Dallas with neighboring entertainment districts like Cedars and the planned Rail District. 

In downtown St. Louis, Missouri, a May groundbreaking of the America’s Center expansion project, known as AC Next Gen, kicked off the much-awaited expansion and facelift for the America’s Center Convention Complex, which was last updated in 1995. The first phase of the multi-million-dollar project includes a 72,000-square-foot exhibit space with natural lighting and a new west side lobby entrance, more than twice the number of loading docks to access to the exhibit space, a farm to supply fresh produce for the center’s kitchen, and more. The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County have each approved $105 million in new bonds to cover the $210 million price tag, which is backed by an existing regional hotel tax. An estimated completion date hasn’t been announced.

Georgia’s Savannah Convention Center and Denver’s Colorado Convention Center also are in the midst of expansions that are slated for completion in 2023. In Savannah, exhibit space is being doubled, 11 breakout rooms and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom added, and the availability of outdoor areas expanded. In addition, the building’s entrance is being transformed with an all-glass façade. 

The Colorado Convention Center’s 200,000-square-foot expansion, happening on the rooftop of the original building, kicked off in September 2021. The project includes a new 80,000-square-foot column-free ballroom (the largest in Colorado and divisible into 19 different configurations), a 20,000-square-foot rooftop outdoor terrace, technology improvements, and new pre-function and networking spaces. A feasibility study in 2013 led to the 2015 voter-approved Colorado Convention Center expansion and National Western Center campus improvements. 

Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) introduced its three-year, $620-million-dollar reimagination in late 2018 but is now hitting its stride due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, an 800-room Grand Hyatt Miami Beach is slated to open on-site in 2025. The expansion included a new 60,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, almost 500,000 square feet of exhibition space, an expanded Grand Lobby, pre-function areas with natural light, up to 84 breakout rooms and almost 2,100 miles of cabling to support all IT communications. Also, $7.1 million of art was curated by the City of Miami Beach Art in Public Places Program and large public green spaces (3 and 6 acres) were added. The facility has earned Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR Facility Accreditation and LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center has achieved its first-ever LEED Gold certification. The 35-year-old building is not being recognized for its construction and design, but its sustainability, maintenance, and operational efforts. Previously achieving LEED Silver in 2011 and recertification in 2017, the facility was critiqued in areas such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and indoor air quality improvements for this year’s certification.