Bevy of Convention Centers Across U.S. Expand and Renovate

August 30, 2018

As the exhibitions industry continues to surge full speed ahead, more and more destinations are recognizing the need to upgrade, revamp and expand their convention centers in order to compete for major trade shows and events. 

These days, myriad facilities are celebrating ground breakings, undergoing new construction projects or anticipating grand openings, while others have put their plans on hold. Here are some of the major U.S. convention centers proposing, building and completing bigger, better, state-of-the-art spaces.

Caesars Forum

On July 16, Caesars Entertainment broke ground on CAESARS FORUM in Las Vegas, a $375 million, 550,000 square foot conference center that will feature a total of 300,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the two largest pillarless ballrooms in the world measuring 110,000 sq. ft. each; two 40,000 square-foot ballrooms; six boardrooms, more than 100 breakout rooms and a 100,000 sq. ft. outdoor plaza.

Located on the famous Las Vegas Strip, the new facility will sit adjacent to the LINQ Promenade retail district and will be connected by skybridge to Harrah’s Las Vegas and The LINQ Hotel and Casino, and by pedestrian bridge to the Flamingo Las Vegas.

Expected to open in 2020, the venue has already contracted $70 million in business, according to Michael Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment, with more in the pipeline.  

Charlotte Convention Center

Beginning next spring, the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina will undergo a $110 million expansion that will add approximately 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting rooms and pre-function space, allowing up to 54 individual breakout sessions at one time that can accommodate 50-600 people theater-style as well as the flexibility to create a 10,000 sq. ft. space. Slated for completion in spring 2021, the project includes a revamping of the Richardson Ballroom that will allow it to be configured into four meeting rooms (up from three) at 7,700 sq. ft. each. 

Charlotte Convention Center


The expansion will also add an over-street pedestrian walkway to The Westin Charlotte, two new hotels that are part of the Crescent Communities mixed-use development, as well as the LYNX Blue Line light rail Stonewall Station, which provides access to abundant dining, retail and nightlife. Opened in 1995, the 550,000-square-foot Charlotte Convention Center currently features a 280,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall and 126,500 sq. ft. of meeting and ballroom space, including the 35,000 sq. ft. Richardson Ballroom and the 40,000 sq. ft. Crown Ballroom. 

Georgia World Congress Center

In late July, the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta broke ground on a $55 million expansion project, the venue’s first major expansion since 2002. Expected to be completed by the end of 2019, it features a new 100,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall that will join the facility’s B and C Buildings and create more than 1 million sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space.


Georgia World Congress Center
Georgia World Congress Center


Opened in 1976 as a single building, the sprawling 3.9 million sq. ft. GWCC has undergone four previous major expansion phases and now boasts 1.4 million sq. ft. of meeting and convention space divided between three main buildings. Known as the fourth largest convention center in the U.S., the facility includes 12 exhibit halls, more than 100 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, three fixed-seat auditoriums and two grand landscaped plazas.

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City is making progress on its $1.5 billion expansion project, which it began in March 2017. Slated to add approximately 1 million sq. ft. by 2021, the project includes a 500,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall; a 55,000 sq. ft. ballroom that will be the largest of its kind in the New York region; 45,000 sq. ft. of meeting room space and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Hudson River. Known as the busiest convention center in the U.S., the six-block, LEED-certified facility currently offers 102 meeting rooms and 840,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, not to mention a 6.75-acre green roof.

Kentucky International Convention Center

After a two-year construction period, the newly renovated and expanded Kentucky International Convention Center re-opened its doors on Aug. 6 with Southern-style fanfare. The new $207 million, three-story facility houses 200,125 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space; a 40,000 sq. ft. pillarless ballroom, 52 meeting rooms and a 175-seat tiered theater.

Kentucky International Convention Center
Kentucky International Convention Center


Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is investing the $860 million into Phase Two of the Las Vegas Convention Center District expansion project that will add 1.4 million sq. ft. to the existing facility, including 600,000 sq. ft. of new exhibit space that is expected to be open in time for CES in 2021. The existing 3.2 million-square-foot structure will also undergo a complete renovation in phases that is slated to be completed in 2023.

Lexington Convention Center

Nearly six years after it was originally proposed, the long-awaited $241 million reinvention and expansion of Kentucky’s Lexington Convention Center is underway. Upon completion in Nov. 2021, the expanded facility will offer more than 100,000 sq. ft. of expo halls; a 25,000 sq. ft. ballroom and more than 30,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.

Los Angeles Convention Center

In May, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) proposed a $1.2 billion expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center and JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live that includes a $500 million, 350,000 sq. ft. addition to the convention facility that would increase its space to more than 1.2 million sq. ft. 

The proposal also calls for a $700-million addition to the JW Marriott Los Angeles in the form of a 40-story hotel tower with 850 rooms and a 51,000 sq. ft. ballroom that would be connected by pedestrian bridges to the existing hotel and the LACC’s West Hall. 

If approved, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would like the projects to be completed by 2022 at the latest. The LEED Gold-certified LACC was last expanded in 1997 and currently boasts 867,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibition space.

Miami Beach Convention Center

Final touches are being put on the three-and-a-half-year, $620 million expansion and renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center that will grow the South Florida venue to 1.4 million sq. ft. Expected to be completed in Sept., the reimagined, LEED-certified facility will include almost 500,000 sq. ft. of renovated expo space; a 60,000 sq. ft. grand ballroom; additional meeting rooms; a 20,000 square-foot glass rooftop junior ballroom, state-of-the-art technology and new versatile indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Miami Beach Convention Center
Miami Beach Convention Center


Moscone Center

On March 12, San Francisco’s Moscone Center celebrated the topping out of its $551 million, three-year expansion project that appears on-schedule for a Jan. 3 grand opening. The project will increase the size of the facility by 21 percent, with a 50,000 sq. ft. grand ballroom, more than 80 meeting rooms and more than 500,000 sq. ft. of contiguous expo space and outdoor terraces. 

Already a leader in sustainability, the facility plans to achieve LEED Platinum certification and become the most environmentally sustainable convention center in North America, a zero-emissions building that will boast an onsite water treatment center and the largest solar array on any building in the Golden Gate City.

Oklahoma City Convention Center

On June 15, Oklahoma City officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the $288 million Oklahoma City Convention Center, which will feature a 200,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall; a 30,000 sq. ft. ballroom with an adjacent 10,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space and 4,000 sq. ft. balcony, and 45,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting space. As the largest single construction project in the city’s history, the new facility is expected to open debt-free in 2020.

Reno-Sparks Convention Center

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority are exploring a potential expansion of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, which underwent a $100 million expansion almost 17 years ago. Currently at 381,000 sq. ft., the Northern Nevada facility needs a minimum of 600,000 sq. ft. of contiguous event space if it hopes to remain competitive in attracting and retaining major shows, according to a joint feasibility study paid for by the RSCVA. Refreshing and expanding the RSCC could cost between $164-$273 million, funds that would likely be raised through hotel room taxes.

Sacramento Convention Center

Starting in January of next year, the Sacramento Convention Center will be getting a major makeover. The approximately $240 million expansion and renovation project will offer more than 240,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 160,000 sq. ft. of expo space, 37 breakouts and 79,100 sq. ft. of meeting space. Construction is slated to be completed in late 2020, with construction on the interior of a new 40,000 sq. ft. ballroom to continue and be completed by April 2021.

Sacramento Convention Center


San Diego Convention Center

The San Diego Convention Center’s dreams of doubling its size to almost 2.6 million sq. ft. were put on hold this month when a citizen’s initiative to expand the center failed to meet the deadline for the November 2018 general election and the city council rejected a last-minute proposal for a city-sponsored measure. 

The LEED Gold-certified waterfront property is best-known as the host of Comic-Con International each July, a major event that continues to grow its space needs each year. The SDCC completed a $216 million expansion in Sept. 2001 that almost doubled the building’s size to 2.6 million sq. ft.

Savannah International Trade and Convention Center

The Savannah International Trade and Convention Center is gearing up for a major expansion that would double the size of the 330,000 sq. ft. waterfront convention complex that currently features 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 13 meeting rooms, four executive board rooms, a 25,000 sq. ft. Grand Ballroom and 367-seat auditorium. The expansion would offer an additional 100,000 sq. ft. of expo space, a 42,000 sq. ft. ballroom, 14 new meeting rooms, service and support spaces as well as a public parking garage.

Washington State Convention Center

Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center is investing $1.6 billion in a new multi-level convention building that will add approximately 250,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, 125,000 sq. ft. of meeting rooms and 60,000 sq. ft. of ballroom space to the facility’s current capacity of 236,700 sq. ft. Expected to open in 2022, the recently dubbed “Summit” building will be LEED Gold-certified and will feature pedestrian walkways that will connect it to the existing “Arch” building. When completed, the Summit building is expected to attract more than 400,000 new conventioneers to the city and generate more than $19 million in annual tax revenue.

Washington State Convention Center
Washington State Convention Center



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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.