New Orleans, La. —When New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced new emergency procedures for the city, he said neither the Superdome nor Ernest N. Morial Convention Center would be a refuge of last resort. That will give a boost to the two facilities in their efforts to restore the trade shows, meetings and conventions sector back to pre-Katrina efforts.
Bookings Pick Up
“The new booking pace picked up tremendously in the past month,” said Jill Alexander, sales and marketing director for the convention center. “It finally looked like a normal, pre-Katrina month,” she said.
The center has booked 40 new events since Hurricane Katrina hit on August 25th. Of its pre-Katrina bookings, 70 percent have been reconfirmed; for 2008, 93 percent are confirmed.
“Groups that couldn’t come in 2006 have been great about reconfirming for future dates,” Alexander said.
Three of the center’s 12 halls opened in mid-February and have hosted events like the Helen Brett Gift & Jewelry Show and Greater New Orleans Auto Show.
In all, eight exhibit halls and affiliated meeting space will open by June. The remainder of the facility will reopen by November.
The renovated center will feature new carpeting, slate tile in the lobby and signs made of cypress, maple and hickory. As of May 1, carpet installation was complete in 90 of the 140 meeting rooms and exterior restoration was ahead of schedule.
“It looks like a new building,” Alexander said. “It now rivals any new convention center built in the past few years.”
The Air & Waste Management Association Conference June 20-23 will be the first to use the renovated meeting space. The Pittsburgh-based group said it is confident that the facilities will be ready for their arrival.
“We’re happy with the resilience of the city. We’ve also been encouraged by the hotel and transportation availability,” said A&WMA communications specialist Ed Costello.
By June, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport expects to have 107 daily flights from 33 destinations—about two-thirds the number of flights from three-quarters of the destinations available pre-Katrina.
Superdome to Be Topped Off This Summer
At the Superdome, work is proceeding to replace the roof that was partially blown off during Katrina. The 27-story roof covers 9.7 acres and is expected to be complete by summer. In addition, damaged areas of the interior have been removed and new tile and flooring will be installed.
Restoration of suites and concession areas is underway.
The Superdome also plans to upgrade its telecommunications system, including a new fiber optics system.
The National Football League will play its first game since Katrina in the Superdome on Monday, September 25.
2006 Bookings At A Glance
§ Ten groups with a total expected attendance of 128,000 are booked at the convention center between June 1 and September 30.
§ In all, 32 events with an expected total attendance of 245,000 are scheduled at the convention center this year as of May 3.