Convention Centers: How do we compare?

May 17, 2007 63 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

For years we have been hearing that the Prime Osborn Convention Center is too small, out-dated, and isolated. Let's see how it stacks up against fourteen convention centers located in other U.S. cities.


2006 metropolitan population: 1,277,997

Facility name: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center

Facility location and hotel: LaVilla; no on-site hotel available.

Facility square footage: 265,000 square feet of space with 78,540 square feet of exhibition space.




2005 metropolitan population: 1,513,565

Facility name: Austin Convention Center

Facility location & Hotel: Downtown, two blocks from 6th Street Entertainment District; 31-story, 800-room Hilton Austin

Facility square footage:  881,400 gross square feet of space with 246,097 square feet of column-free exhibit space, divisible into five contiguous halls.




2006 metropolitan population: 1,583,016

Facility name: Charlotte Convention Center

Facility location & hotel:  Downtown Charlotte

Facility square footage: 280,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space

Charlotte's convention center is a stones throw away from the heart of Uptown.




2006 metropolitan population: 496,704

Facility name:

Facility location & hotel: Downtown Chattanooga; The Chattanooga Marriott–341 rooms

Facility square footage:  312,000 square feet, which includes 100,800 square feet of clear space exhibit space, 21 meeting rooms and six ballrooms.




2006 metropolitan population:  2,408,750

Facility name: Colorado Convention Center

Facility location & hotel: Downtown Denver (16th Street Mall)

Facility square footage: 584,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space



Erie, PA

2006 metropolitan population: 279,811

Facility name: Erie Bayfront Convention Center (opens Summer 2007)

Facility location and hotel: Downtown waterfront; Sheraton Hotel (200 units)

Facility square footage: $44 million dollar 145,000 square foot complex with 30,000 square foot exhibition hall and maritime museum



Grand Rapids

2006 metropolitan population: 774,084

Facility name: DeVos Place Convention Center

Facility location & hotel: Downtown Grand Rapids; Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Facility square footage: $220 million 250,000 square foot facility, on 13-acre riverfront site.  Opened in 2003 and expanded in 2005, the facility contains a 160,000 square feet Exhibit Hall, with a ceiling height of 72ft, at it’s highest point.





2006 metropolitan population: 1,666,032

Facility name: Indiana Convention Center

Facility location and hotel: Downtown Indianapolis; Center directly connected, via skywalks, to Hyatt (497 units), Marriott (615 units), and Westin (573 units) hotels.  Facility also includes five restaurants: Espresso Caffe, Indiana Grille, Pizza Villa, American Deli and The Crossroads Bistro.

Facility square footage:  725,000 square feet.  Currently being increased in size to 1.2 million square feet, including 254,000 square feet of exhibition space.

This image captures a parking garage adjacent to the Indianapolis complex, featuring a local restaurant and a brewery at street level.





2006 metropolitan population: 1,222,216

Facility name: Kentucky International Convention Center

Facility location & hotel:

Facility square footage: 300,000 square feet, including 145,000 square feet of contiguous, column-free exhibit space.  The center also houses a Starbucks Coffee and the Kentucky World Trade Center.





2006 metropolitan population: 1,274,704

Facility name: Memphis Cook Convention Center

Facility location & hotel: Downtown Memphis; Memphis Marriott Downtown (600 units)

Facility square footage: 350,000 square feet with 125,000 square feet of column free exhibition space.





2006 metropolitan population: 404,157

Facility name: Mobile Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center

Facility location and hotel: Downtown riverfront; Renaissance Hotel – 374 units

Facility square footage: 262,000 square feet of functional meeting space, including 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Daulphin Street, downtown Mobile's dining and entertainment district is a short walk from the city's convention facilities and hotels.





2006 metropolitan population: 1,455,097

Facility name: Nashville Convention Center

Facility location and hotel:  Heart of downtown Nashville; Nashville Renaissance (673 units).

Facility square footage: 310,000 square foot center with an 118,675 square foot exhibit hall.  The City of Nashville is in the process of evaluating the need for a new $455 million convention center with 1.2 million square feet of gross space and 375,000 square feet of contiguous floor exhibition space.  Minimum site requirements are 15 acres for the complex and 15 acres for future expansion.  The new center would be among the top 40 largest facilities in the US to compete with other mid-sized markets, specifically Charlotte and Indianapolis.

Despite being significantly larger than the Prime Osborn, Nashville is agressively seeking ways to expand their facilities to compete with the other second tier US cities.  This diagram illustrates a few of the problems associated with the current convention center.





2006 metropolitan population: 994,551

Facility name: Raleigh Convention Center (under construction)

Facility location & hotel:  Downtown Raleigh; 17 story, 400 room Marriott Hotel (u/c)

Facility square footage: 500,000 square foot facility with 150,000 square feet of convention space.

This section drawing illustrates how a vertical oriented complex could be assembled, for all those people who believe a convention center needs to take up three football fields.





2006 metropolitan population: 320,013

Facility name: Savannah International Trade & Convention Center

Facility location & hotel: Dowtown riverfront; Westin Savannah Harbor Hotel – 403 units

Facility square footage:  330,000 square feet, with 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.





2006 metropolitan population: 2,697,731

Facility name: Tampa Convention Center

Facility location and hotel: Downtown riverfront; Marriott Waterside (717 units) & Embassy Suites (360 units).

Facility square footage: 4-story tall 600,000 square foot complex, with 200,000 square feet of exhibition space.  Although the center opened in 1991, local officials are conducting feasibility studies to determine the most suitable sites to double the size of the 12-year old facility.

A list of all major US convention center expansion projects in the works: