Today, officials of St. Louis City and County have come together to announce the AC Next Gen Project, which will update and expand the America’s Center Convention Complex to secure its place as an economic and employment driver for the entire region. The need to expand the Complex has never been more urgent as cities across the country are making large investments in their convention centers and luring lucrative meetings and events to their communities. It is time for the St. Louis region to come together and invest in America’s Center that is critically important to the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the State of Missouri.
The Complex is an anchor to an entire subsector of the City’s downtown bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the metropolitan area every year. The Complex hosts roughly 100 events annually, with more than 600,000 attendees, 300,000 hotel room nights and generating $265 million of new direct economic spending for the community according to Johnson Consulting. Most importantly, the facility supports more than 3,300 full-time jobs for residents across the St. Louis region.
“I’m excited to announce a joint commitment between St. Louis City and St. Louis County in America’s Center,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson of the City of St. Louis. “This investment has paid off for the St. Louis region in the past and it will continue to do so in the future.”
At present, America’s Center’s prominence and value to the region are threatened because its amenities have not kept pace with competing facilities in other cities. The Cervantes Convention Center was originally built in 1977, and is in need of modernization, including expanded, contiguous and consistent quality exhibit space, improved loading dock access to the exhibit halls, the addition of a sizeable multi-purpose space, improved service access to exhibit halls and meetings areas, as well as other improvements.
The total cost of implementing the AC Next Gen Project is estimated at approximately $175 million and will include the following elements:
· Addition of 92,000 square feet of highly usable exhibit space, which enhances the exhibit hall layout of the Complex allowing the facility to host larger events.
· A 65,000 square feet signature multi-purpose ballroom and meeting area with 20,000 square feet pre-function event space for clients, positioning St. Louis dominantly in its competitive set.
· 22,000 square feet of new support space to improve service access to current and new exhibit halls and ballrooms.
· The construction of 26 new loading docks and renovation of existing 12 docks that will all be enclosed to enhance access and aesthetics of the building and surrounding areas.
· An outdoor pavilion to serve the needs of convention attendees and improve the convention center district ambiance for residents and area workers as well.
· Refurbishment of the central Washington Avenue entrance, which serves as St. Louis’ front door for the hundreds of thousands of event attendees who visit the Complex.
· The Dome will remain a flexible multi-purpose venue for meeting planners and other clients hosting large-scale events and activities.
Upon completion, these enhancements will stabilize the current decline in event bookings and potentially create nearly 36 percent growth according to the most recent estimates by Johnson Consulting.
“This is a good deal for County taxpayers as the proposed revenue will be paid from out of town visitors who stay in our County hotels and motels,” said County Executive Steve Stenger of St. Louis County.
Through the support of legislation proposed by elected officials in both St. Louis City and County, the project will be funded by the extension of payments from the designated fund set up through the hotel and motel taxes collected in St. Louis City and County, which was initiated to build The Dome at America’s Center. There will be no new tax on local residents, as this is only paid by people staying in area hotels, as has been the case since the construction of The Dome began. Ordinances detailing the financing packages are to be introduced shortly in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County.
“The America’s Center plays a critical role as an economic driver for the entire region. The Complex is truly a window for the hundreds of thousands of event attendees who visit us and are hopefully inspired to return here for future leisure or business event purposes,” stated Kathleen ‘Kitty’ Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis. “On an annual basis, St. Louis hosts over 25 million visitors who spend more than $5.8 billion in our community. Expanding and upgrading the America’s Center will help us build on these visitor numbers and the 88,000 local jobs they help support throughout our region’s hospitality industry.”
The competitive landscape for meeting and events keeps increasing as cities throughout the Midwest continue to invest in their facilities. Recent investments include in Indianapolis ($275 million), Nashville ($623 million), San Antonio ($325 million), Columbus ($125 million) and Louisville ($207 million), with new projects underway in cities like Lexington ($230 million) and Oklahoma City ($288 million). All of these cities, and more, are taking aggressive steps to bring meeting and convention business to their regions and making it more difficult for St. Louis and the America’s Center to remain a world-class destination for these clients and their attendees.
A video detailing the preliminary AC Next Gen project is available here.
Explore St. Louis is the driving force behind St. Louis’ $5.8 billion convention and tourism industry, the official destination marketing organization of St. Louis City and County and operator of the America’s Center Convention Complex.