Coronavirus and Meetings
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Orlando's Orange County Convention Center is the latest event venue to fall victim to the COVID-19 crisis, which has already delayed new property openings and forced some hotels to shut down for good.
The facility, which is the second largest in the United States, was scheduled to undergo a $604 million expansion of its North-South building. Originally scheduled for completion in 2023, the project has been put on hold due to coronavirus-related budget restraints. According to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, plans to expand the convention center are being "delayed at the very least."
"Our budget will remain flat overall for the next fiscal year," said Demings in a press briefing on July 6. "Another casualty of the pandemic will be the planned expansion of the Orange County Convention Center, as we knew it."
The expansion project was expected to bring the venue's total exhibit space up to 2.3 million square feet. Included in the plans were the addition of an enclosed Convention Way Grand Concourse, which would add 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000-square-foot ballroom and a new entry to the North-South building. In addition, a new 200,000-square-foot multipurpose venue was to provide seating for up to 20,000 people.
The number of coronavirus cases in Florida has surged in recent weeks, forcing Governor Ron DeSantis to reverse the state's reopening plan. Gatherings of more than 50 people currently are prohibited in the state.
To date, the Orange County Convention Center has had to cancel 39 conventions, with an estimated economic impact of $904 million. The venue has successfully rescheduled 32 conventions, representing $485 million. In an effort to bring back live events safely when the time is right, the convention center has announced plans to pursue the new coronavirus cleaning and prevention certification from the Global BioRisk Advisory Council.