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Anaheim City Council Approves Convention Center Expansion


Anaheim, CA – A long-awaited seventh expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center that would add 200,000 sf of flex space got the go-ahead on a 4 to 1 vote from the Anaheim City Council March 11.

The expansion would “help Anaheim remain No. 1 on the West Coast,” said Jay Burress, president and CEO of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (AOVCB), at the group’s annual meeting February 27. The convention center currently has 813,000 sf of prime exhibit space and ranks No. 15 in Trade Show Executive’s World’s Top Convention Centers directory.

Funding was made possible primarily from money generated by the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District, a self-assessment district of hotels in the Anaheim Resort and Platinum Triangle that was approved in 2010.

The expansion was first envisioned in 2006 and will have an estimated budget of $180 million. A 2008 plan, which included a hotel with meeting space shared with the convention center, was in the works, but the financial crisis hit that year and derailed the plan.

Work is expected to begin in August and be completed in Fall 2016. The new space will replace Car Park 1, facing Katella Avenue in front of the Hilton Anaheim. It will be linked to the existing convention center via a climate-controlled pedestrian bridge and be built to LEED silver rating standards. The project also includes additional loading docks, a vehicle entrance and replacement of 1,400 existing parking spaces.

Turner Construction and Populous Architects were named the design-build team for the project. Kansas City-based Populous specializes in the design of sports venues and convention centers and was formerly known as HOK Sport. Turner Construction Co., based in New York, has offices in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The only potential worry about the expansion, noted by Mayor Tom Tait in a January State of the City presentation, is what might happen if the number of room nights and transient occupancy tax revenue don’t meet expectations.

Current trends bode well for meeting those expectations. In 2013, the Anaheim Convention Center hosted 1.2 million attendees at 238 events. Last fall, The NAMM Show signed a new five-year deal with the convention center to run through January 2018, based in part on confidence in the expansion project. The show, which drew more than 100,000 attendees in January, is Anaheim’s largest.

Last year, 511 future conventions were booked for Anaheim, up 5% from the number booked in 2012. Those conventions also represent a 22% increase in projected attendance to 1.5 million compared to those booked in 2012, and a 12% increase in room nights booked to 1 million. Anaheim hosted 37 citywide events in 2013.

The AOVCB already is targeting medical, trade show and meetings associations for future business. The International Association of Exhibits & Events (IAEE) is set to hold its Expo! Expo! in Anaheim in 2016.

“Trade shows have been the bread and butter here for a long time,” Burress said at the AOVCB annual meeting last week. “We want to make sure the rest of the country knows about the expansion,” he said.

Reach Jay Burress at (714) 765-8840 or

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