Are Convention Centers Worth the Investment?

Are Convention Centers Worth the Investment?

By Monica Compton, CMP, March 23, 2016

“Convention centers seldom make a profit in their own right,” said James Ingo Freed in 1989 as his design for an expansion of Los Angeles Convention Center began. “Essentially they are architectural machines designed to generate business for the city.” Twenty-seven years later, his statement still holds true as convention center renovations and expansions quicken across the country. Every aspect of a city depends on large group business to fill hotels, restaurants and taxis; bolster shopping revenue; and increase entertainment sales. So the answer to the question above? Yes.

The economic impact a convention center has on a metropolis is in the billions—but not all are without controversy from taxpayers. This handy guide gives a quick rundown of five to watch.


Venue Stats 300 events in 2015, attracting 2.4 million visitors

Economic Impact $486 million

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.09.05 PMWhat the City Says “Generating $9 million in occupancy tax per year, we’re in fourth place behind San Diego, Anaheim and San Francisco,” says Brad Gessner, senior vice president of AEG Facilities and general manager of Los Angeles Convention Center. “Anaheim has 11,000 hotel [rooms] within walking distance of their convention center. San Diego has 9,000 and [Los Angeles] has 3,500 rooms.”

Renovation Start Date Late 2017

Expected Completion December 2020

Expansion Details A new 97,000-sq.-ft. ballroom; 59,000 square feet of additional meeting rooms; 145,000 square feet of new exhibit space

Added Amenities A 75,000-sq.-ft. outdoor ballroom; a 1,000-room hotel connected to the West Hall; 755 rooms added to nearby JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live for a total of 1,633 rooms; a new 900-room InterContinental hotel opening in 2017

Controversy The convention center’s new square footage isn’t being put on an empty lot—it’s going vertical atop existing postwar buildings—“some more tired-looking than others,” describes the Los Angeles Times. Instead of a high-designed, statement structure, the building will be pieced together.

Bankrolled By Bonds issued to pay for this project could be paid for by taxes already being charged to hotel guests.

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