As the home of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland already has a lot to brag about, but with $2 billion of additional tourist development on tap, including a new downtown convention center and medical mart, several hotels and the first Ohio-based Casino, just to name a few projects, the Lake Erie city has even more to show off.
The city’s convention and visitors bureau, Positively Cleveland, did just that by inviting more than 30 meeting planners to town to experience not only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, but also check out Cleveland’s 1 million square foot I-X Center, hotel offerings and the progress being made on the joint Merchandise Mart Properties Inc./Cuyahoga County convention center and medical mart development.
The two-day event kicked off with a tour and breakfast at the I-X Center located close to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Robert J. Peterson, president of the I-X Center, told the crowd, “We operate in an entrepreneurial spirit, so we are very easy to work with.”
The I-X Center is one of few privately owned and operated convention centers in the United States. The center also owns and produces eight consumer shows held in the venue.
Some of the shows held at the 25-year-old I-X Center include Material Handling and Logistics North American Exhibition & Conference, the Wire Association International’s Interwire event, and the American Chemical Society’s Rubber Expo, as well as public shows such as the Fabulous Food Show and International Beer Fest.
In addition to creating new consumer shows, the I-X Center plans to invest another $25 million to $30 million during the next few years – including nearly $3 million this year – to upgrade visitor amenities, and improve traffic flow and parking.
Before a tour of the center and breakfast that featured the China-based acrobatic team, Cirque Shanghai, David Gilbert, president and CEO of Positively Cleveland, spoke about the $2 billion in tourist developments coming to Cleveland.
“Right now is a very exciting time in Cleveland,” he said. “Just in the last couple of years and into the foreseeable future the city is going crazy."
The rest of the day’s activities included seeing several hotel products – Hyatt Regency at Grand Arcade, Cleveland Marriott at Key Center and the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.
Also in the afternoon was a hard hat tour of the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center development scheduled to open July 2013.
“It’s going to absolutely put us on the map as a convention facility,” said Brian Casey, general manager of the center and medical mart.
The $450 million project will include a 100,000 square foot medical mart, with an adjoining 230,000 sq. ft. convention center.
In addition, the facility will have more than 92,000 sq. ft. dedicated to meeting rooms and a ballroom looking out onto Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland.
“We are actually going to be opening early, which is unheard of,” Casey said to a room full of applause.
Also coming to downtown Cleveland is Ohio’s first casino – the Horseshoe Casino - owned by Caesars Entertainment and set to open May 14.
The $500 million, 100,000 gaming sq. ft. casino will open in an existing historic building.
“This is a piece of business we think will complement Cleveland really well,” said Brad Hirsch, the casino’s assistant general manager.
The first day was topped off by a party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the following days Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Concert.
Before the induction ceremony, the day was filled with more hotel tours – Doubletree Lakeside, Hilton Garden Inn, the Ritz-Carlton, Wyndham and InterContinental Hotels.
In all, Cleveland has more than 4,50o hotel rooms in the downtown area and 3,000-plus near the I-X Center with more on the way, including the Westin Cleveland Convention Center Hotel, with 472 rooms and opening July 2012; the Courtyard by Marriott in University Circle, with 150 rooms and opening in 2012; and Aloft Hotel Cleveland Downtown, with 150 rooms and opening in 2013.
The entire weekend was topped off with a more than five hour concert and induction ceremony at Cleveland’s Public Hall that included performances by rockers Guns n’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as Scottish folk singer Donovan.