Coronavirus and Meetings
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Updated Sept. 1, 2020. Expansion work on Orlando's Orange County Convention Center is the latest to fall victim to the Covid-19 crisis, which has 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, all work now has been put on hold due to pandemic-related budget restraints.
In early July, Orange Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said plans to expand the convention center would be "delayed at the very least." Now, all work on the project is being halted and all contracts will be cancelled or suspended. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Orange County has spent more than $6.5 million on the projects in the two months since Demings announced that the project would be delayed.
"Initially, we intended to complete the design to have a 100 percent set of drawings," wrote Demings in a memo to county commissioners. According to the OCCC website, the design process was about 45 percent complete in July. "However, I have looked at the additional cost required to reach that milestone against a backdrop of significant uncertainty of when to proceed with the project," the mayor said. "Additionally, we are unaware of the design changes that might be needed to successfully complete and operate in the post-pandemic environment."
The construction would have brought 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 breakout 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.
In an effort to bring back live events safely, the convention center has become GBAC Star certified in coronavirus cleaning and prevention. In July, the Orange County Convention Center hosted its first trade show since March. More than 1,400 people attended the Together Again Expo in person.
To date, the Orange County Convention Center has had to cancel 58 conventions, with an estimated economic loss of $1.22 billion. The venue has successfully rescheduled 30 conventions, representing $301 million.