Georgia World Congress Center Space Used to Educate, Entertain Local Community

August 6, 2014

Even though the Georgia World Congress Center is one of the country’s largest convention center venues with 1.3-plus million square feet of exhibit space, the building is used for much more than just hosting meetings, conventions and trade shows. 

Through unique partnerships in the community, the venue not only has two education centers tucked into converted meeting room space, but also the College Football Hall of Fame will be opening in August on the venue’s campus. 

For local students looking for a career in the trade show industry, the GWCC offers an invaluable opportunity through a partnership with the Georgia State School of Hospitality to have a Learning Center in the building. 

At the Learning Center, which was opened in 2007 and is located in meeting rooms in the GWCC, students are close to all of the action taking place, as shows move in and out of the building. 

“We wanted to put a classroom on the campus so they would have real-world experiences,” said Mark Zimmerman, GWCC’s general manager. 

He added that the students often help out at the shows and event organizers also come to the classroom and lead sessions on what it takes to put a show together. 

“It’s been a tremendous help,” said Debby Cannon, director of GSU’s School of Hospitality Robinson College of Business. “Show organizers can come right up from their shows.” 

She added that the actual experience that the students get by being onsite at the GWCC is invaluable. 

“They love it,” she added. “They are used to a more traditional academic classroom, but to be there in the thick of things and to see people coming and going gives them a better feel for reality.”

Besides GSU’s learning center,  another meeting room area of the GWCC is used for the Junior Achievement's Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center. 

The Discovery Center is made up of meeting room space that has been converted into a ‘mini’ business town – JA BizTown and JA Finance Park - with companies including Belk, ING, Georgia Power and SunTrust, to name a few. 

Each year, more than 30,000 6th thru 8th grade students have the opportunity to take part in programs held at the Discovery Center in which they take on the rolls of an employee, taxpayer and consumer. 

During simulated assignments, students take on simulated roles from everything from being a cashier to being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, as well as performing tasks such as depositing a check at the bank and made purchasing decisions for sales at their assigned company. 

For more on JA Biztown and JA Finance Park click HERE

Also located on the GWCC campus and opening Aug. 23 will be the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience. 

Built in the GWCC’s Green Parking Lot area, the 94,000-square-foot centerpiece will feature historic and contemporary artifacts, interactive multimedia displays, children’s activities, theater, meeting facilities and special event spaces.

“It’s huge!” Zimmerman said. “They are expecting 500,000 people to visit (each year), and (they have) signed a 30-year agreement.”

For more on the College Football Hall of Fame click HERE.

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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.