Trade Show Organizers Urge Officials to Move Las Vegas Convention Center $2.3 Billion Expansion Project Forward

October 23, 2015

The Las Vegas Convention Center’s need for renovations and new exhibit and meeting space should have already occurred was the consensus among top trade show organizers who spoke Oct. 22 to the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee.

In a candid fact-finding session, they urged the 11-member committee to think strategically about the Las Vegas future and its position not just as a U.S., but also as a global trade show destination.

The session was the third of five the committee was conducting before making decisions on what would be priorities for next year.

The panel of trade show organizers representing the Consumer Electronics Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, UBM-Advanstar, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Specialty Marketing Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers expressed their support for the $2.3 billion Convention Center District improvement program proposed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that would add indoor and outdoor space, meeting rooms, tech and facilities improvements.

Among their concerns was that 2022, the date when the proposed project would be completed, still is too far away, and they need to grow their shows now.

Karen Chupka, senior vice president of International CES, said that for the first time in its history, the show that brought more than 160,000 attendees to Las Vegas this year will be capping its attendance in 2016 because of the logistics of moving people around the city.

The record-breaking show will run out of space by 2018. “We’re looking for alternatives,” she added. “We’ve just launched an event in China. We see (the convention center project) as a beginning, but it’s only a beginning.”

Chris Brown, executive vice president of conventions and business operations for the National Association of Broadcasters, said: “We’re at a point of building tents in the parking lot. We’re completely out of meeting space, which is a key issue for us because we’re unable to add new educational programs.  It impacts our ability to grow attendance.”

He also noted that the “tired” facility is not the experience that the high-tech corporations are looking for.

Chris Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), said: “We’re going to be challenged to come up with relevant experiences that stay contemporary with the changes in the industry.”

Tim McGuinness, staff vice president of global trade expositions for the International Council of Shopping Centers, told the committee that his organization almost moved its annual RECon show to Chicago, but reconsidered after learning about the proposed expansion.  “This is long overdue. We need to move this forward very quickly,” he added.

Megan Tanel, CONEXPO-CON/AGG show director and AEM vice president exhibitions and events, said that the floor plan of the new building already was too small for their show. “What if we went and build a building in the desert? For us all options are on the table,” she said, noting that their show is competing with events in China and Germany. She also gave a nod to German exhibition companies messes that have joint partnerships with local governments and shows to build top-notch facilities.

Tony Calanca, executive vice president of exhibitions for UBM-Advanstar that produces MAGIC Market Week, said that the city should have started the renovations years ago and that the proposed facility is not big enough. “You didn’t become and will not stay world class by being reactive,” he said. “Make no small plans.”

The four-phase Convention Center District strategic plan involves the acquisition of 26.4 acres occupied by the old Riviera hotel and its demotion, the construction of the 1.4 million sq. ft. exhibit hall across the street from the North Hall, the renovation of the 3.2 million square feet of existing facilities and additional improvements based on client feedback.

Phase 1, which includes the acquisition and demolition of the Riviera, is the only fully funded piece at this time. It’s expected to be competed and the space to be paved for outdoor demos in time for ConExpo-CON/AGG in 2017.

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