Major Convention Center Expansion and Renovation Projects for 2023

Construction begins on projects in Fort Worth and Indianapolis, while upgrades to Cleveland's facility will be completed next summer, in time for ASAE's annual meeting.

Work has begun on a $95 million project at the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center.
Work has begun on a $95 million project at the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center.

Many cities throughout the United States are sprucing up their convention centers and adding more space to attract larger groups. The following facility projects are either recently debuted, in the middle of renovation work or awaiting approval to begin. The results of these endeavors could well affect the respective destinations' standing in the Convention Cities Index, Northstar's ranking of domestic (and international) cities with respect to large-scale events.

Here's the latest update on the progress for 17 convention center projects around the country.

Latest convention center expansion news

Fort Worth Convention Center

Construction officially has begun on the first phase of the expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas (above), which includes the addition of new food-and-beverage facilities, the demolition of the annex, the realignment of Commerce Street to create a site for a future hotel, and the addition of four loading docks for a total of seven. Work on the $95 million phase will finish in 2026. 

The second phase possibly will get underway when occupancy taxes have recovered fully to fund the project; it will add 97,000 square feet of new exhibit space, 48,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a 50,000-square-foot ballroom. The existing facility also is scheduled to be renovated. 

The 618-room Omni Fort Worth Hotel, across from the convention center, also is working on a $200 million expansion, which will add 400 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of new meeting space. The project also is anticipated to open in 2026.

Construction has started on an expansion at Cleveland's Huntington Convention Center.

Huntington Convention Center

An expansion to Cleveland's downtown convention center, part of a $49 million investment, is underway. The LEED Gold-certified Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland is adding or updating more than 25 meeting rooms, is adding a rooftop terrace, and the junior ballroom will double in size. Other infrastructure improvements include new escalators, stairs, restrooms and meeting room technology. After work is done, the HCCC will offer 60 breakout rooms, including 17 new ones and 13 that have been updated in the Atrium building. With the expansion, the HCCC’s available space will increase from 475,000 square feet to about 553,000 square feet. The updates are expected to be completed next summer, in time for the city to host the American Society of Association Executives' Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Indianapolis Signia Hotel
Rendering of the new Signia Hotel by Hilton coming to Indianapolis

Indiana Convention Center

Ground was broken earlier this month on the sixth expansion to the Indiana Convention Center since it opened in 1972. This time, about 143,500 square feet of usable space is being added, which will feature a 50,000-square-foot ballroom. When completed, the total exhibit hall, ballroom, meeting room and prefunction space at Indianapolis's convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium complex will be more than 1.1 million square feet.

Also being constructed is an 800-room Signia Hilton that will be connected to the convention facility by climate-controlled skywalk, bringing the number of hotel rooms with direct access to the center up to 5,520.

Among the dignitaries with shovels was Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who said, “Over the past decades, the Indiana Convention Center has hosted some of the most iconic large events in Indiana and America, while generating billions of dollars in economic impact and supporting a hospitality and service sector with over 80,000 jobs. This latest expansion and hotel addition will keep Indianapolis at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to the perfect host venue — and city.”

Both projects should debut by early 2026.

Las Vegas Convention Center rendering
Rendering showing the new South Hall entrance at the Las Vegas Convention Center

Las Vegas Convention Center

A rolling three-year renovation to the existing Las Vegas Convention Center began in May, after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s board of directors approved the architectural plans and the $600 million in funding. The project follows the construction of the West Hall, a 1.4 million-square-foot expansion that opened in June 2021.  

The majority of construction will take place in 2024 and 2025 to accommodate the current show schedule.

Aside from upgrades throughout the interior, a new entrance will be created on the east side of the South Hall next to the Convention Center Loop passenger station. A climate-controlled connector will be built to allow attendees to move to and from every exhibition hall without going outdoors (currently, access to South Hall is only available outside). The entire project is scheduled to be completed by the end of December 2025, in time for the 2026 CES technology trade show.

Convention Center Projects Underway

Arlington (Texas) Convention Center

As the original convention center was turned into the Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center in 2018, the city saw the need to build another meetings facility. Construction is ongoing on the new Arlington Convention Center, which will sport 216,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. The center will be connected to the forthcoming, 888-room Loews Arlington Hotel. The two are expected to open in 2024. The convention facility also will be connected by skybridge to the existing 200-room Live! by Loews hotel.

The expansion is the current phase of a massive, $4 billion project from the city, Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers, the Cordish Cos. and Loews Hotels. The first phase welcomed the $250 million Texas Live! entertainment complex in August 2018, and the Live! by Loews hotel a year later. Arlington also is home to the Rangers' ballpark, Globe Life Field, and AT&T Stadium, home of the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys.

Austin Convention Center

As the 11th-largest city in the country that disproportionately is home to the 59th-largest convention facility, the Texas capital has been weighing options for expanding the Austin Convention Center for years. The project finally is moving forward after stalling during the pandemic. 

The city began soliciting requests for proposal on May 22 to find an architect and general contractor to build onto the facility vertically rather than horizontally. Details on exactly how much space will be added, and what those configurations will look like, still are in the works. About $1.6 billion has been earmarked for the construction, fully funded by the city's hotel occupancy tax.

Many area improvements also are planned, and the end of the decade should see the opening of light-rail service from the convention center to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which also might be growing.

Construction work is finishing up on the new 80,000-square-foot ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center.

Colorado Convention Center

A hard-hat tour of the construction site in May at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver revealed the work is nearing completion. Expected to open this fall, the vertical project is being built onto the existing facility. The expansion includes an 80,000-square-foot multifunction space that will be divisible into as many as 19 breakout rooms, a 35,000-square-foot prefunction area and a 20,000-square-foot rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and the city. NMG got a sneak peak of the enormous kitchen that will serve the new ballroom.

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Just outside San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, the new Civic Park at Hemisfair will be unveiled at the end of the year, adding a new lawn for events of several thousand people. Also in the works is a plan to build out the section of the convention facility near the park for better access to the new outdoor space, and to add a 15,000-square-foot ballroom and 8 meeting rooms to the facility. A timeline for that construction has yet to be determined. The Texas Legislature also has passed a bill that would give hundreds of millions of dollars to an expansion of the convention center and renovations to the Alamodome; Bill 2220 is now on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for signing.

Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center

In October 2021, an expansion to the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Florida opened its doors. The revamped facility currently has 800,000 square feet of space, featuring a 350,000-square-foot exhibit hall and two ballrooms.

Work is now underway to build even more onto the center's footprint. When completed, the facility will cover more than 1.2 million square feet, with the 350,000-square-foot exhibition hall; four ballrooms, including a new 65,000-square-foot waterfront ballroom; 50 breakout rooms; upgraded technology; enhanced water taxi access; and a 5-acre waterfront plaza with three restaurants, an amphitheater and outdoor event space. In total, the BCCC is getting an additional 525,000 square feet of meeting space and an 800-room headquarters hotel at a cost of $1 billion.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The expansion is aiming for LEED Gold certification; both the convention center space and the hotel are expected to debut in late 2025.

Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee
Rendering of the entrance at the upgraded Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Center

Ground was broken in 2021 on the 673,000-square-foot addition to the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. The $456 million project's reveal is about a year away; the construction will bring the facility's totals to 300,275 square feet of exhibit space; 73,566 square feet of breakout space; two ballrooms, the existing 37,506-square-foot space and a new 32,000-square-foot rooftop ballroom that will have an 18,223-square-foot wraparound rooftop terrace. The center's final footprint will be 1.3 million square feet.

A comprehensive inclusion plan for hiring support firms for the expansion has assured that 25 percent are minority-owned businesses, 5 percent are women-owned, and 1 percent are owned by disabled veterans. Also in place was a residents-preferred program, set at 40 percent, meaning at least $40 million of the $100 million in anticipated construction wages would be earned by Milwaukee residents.

The city is counting on the work to be finished by May 2024, just in time to host the Republican National Convention July 15-18. Construction is on pace to be mostly complete by March 2024, with finishing touches to be added before booked events begin in May.

Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center

The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center has been undergoing a $557 million upgrade for several years — stalled a bit by the pandemic, of course — and one of the major elements is about to get underway. In January, about $37 million was earmarked to replace the facility's 41-acre roof. Parts of the current roof are nearly 40 years old, yet it represents vital infrastructure: The building's rooftop diverts more than 90 percent of rainfall into the Mississippi River, reducing drainage strain on the city.

“This is a major milestone for the convention center and for the future of our facility,” said Michael J. Sawaya, the facility's president. “Replacing the roof is a critical first step toward upgrading our building and enhancing the experience we offer our clients, exhibitors and guests. We are glad to be moving the process forward on schedule.”

Starting this summer, work also will begin on the redesign of 140 meeting rooms, a phase that should finish up by October. The plans also call for a new 40,000-square-foot grand ballroom on the third floor.

Savannah Convention Center

Work at the Savannah Convention Center in Georgia is on track to finish up next year, and the first group to gather in the enlarged facility recently signed on the dotted line. The National Beta Club will host its 2024 national convention, a citywide event, in Savannah from June 9-20, with an estimated 14,820 room nights. 

The expansion project is doubling the exhibit hall space to 200,000 square feet and adding a 58-foot-wide hangar door to ease load-in. Also new will be a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 15 meeting rooms, a 900-space garage, more outdoor event space and a new entrance with an all-glass façade.

st. louis America's Center construction
Construction is in full swing at the America's Center in St. Louis.

America's Center

Phase one of an expansion project at the America's Center convention facility in St. Louis began last May, to be completed by mid-2024. Now under construction are a 72,000-square-foot addition to hall 4 with natural lighting, a new entrance, more than twice the number of loading docks for access to the exhibit space, a "food farm" and other improvements.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, $30 million of a $250 million settlement from a lawsuit over the relocation of the NFL's Rams to Los Angeles would go to fund the first phase of the expansion, which is being pinched by rising construction costs. 

Kitty Ratcliffe, president and CEO of Explore St. Louis, says that the funding has been secured and is simply awaiting finalization from the city. "The exhibit hall will be done in a year, so our groups in 2024 will have that new space and new loading docks," Ratcliffe explains, noting that phase two will add other needed elements: a larger, 61,000-square-foot ballroom and accompanying prefunction space, and a 22,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion. No timeline has been set for the second phase of the project.

Convention Center Projects Coming Soon

Here's what the new convention center in Dallas might look like.
Here's what the new convention center in Dallas might look like.

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center

In November, Dallas voters approved a 2 percentage-point rise in the hotel occupancy tax, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2023, to raise funds for a new convention center and renovations to six venues in Fair Park. Guests in city hotels, motels and short-term rentals will now pay 9 percent to Dallas and 6 percent to the state, for a total of 15 percent; properties with 100 or more rooms tack on an extra 2 percent Tourism Public Improvement District tax for marketing purposes, for a total of 17 percent.

The three-mile radius around the convention center has been designated a "project-financing zone," which allows the city to keep all of the taxes generated within that zone.

The city council had already approved plans in February 2022 to build the new, 2.5-million-square-foot convention center adjacent to the current Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, which would be demolished. Plans for the new facility call for 800,000 square feet of exhibit space and 400,000 square feet of breakout space, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, with a projected opening date in 2028.

Renovation and expansion work, as well as a new hotel, have been given the go-ahead in Detroit.
Renovation and expansion work, as well as a new hotel, have been given the go-ahead in Detroit.

Huntington Place

Detroit's convention center, Huntington Place, has been recertified as a LEED Gold facility and is slated to undergo a renovation and expansion. The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority voted in January to enter an agreement with Sterling Group, a local developer, to do the work, and to build an attached headquarters hotel with 600 to 800 rooms. 

The action followed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's signing of two bills in December that ease the way for the expansion of Huntington Place. Senate Bills 1222 and 1223 amended different acts related to convention facilities, allowing the issuing of bonds, as well as capital expenditures associated with Huntington Place, so the center can be expanded to accommodate more business. The bills also allow a regional convention facility authority — meaning the DRCFA — to enter a public-private agreement and revise the distribution of money from the Convention Facility Development Fund.

"We're potentially looking at adding a second ballroom to the convention center because the current ballroom is in high demand and we have to turn away a lot of business," Claude Molinari, board chairman of the DRCFA, and president and CEO of Visit Detroit, told the Detroit News when the deal with Sterling was signed in January.

No time line has been determined yet for the project.

Cities Working Out Expansion Details

Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

A push to enlarge the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has been in the works for many years, but keeps getting snagged. In 2019, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority proposed selling the Back Bay's Hynes Convention Center to help fund a $500 million expansion, but that idea ran into political opposition and then the pandemic hit. The fate of the Hynes still is up in the air, but authority officials want to move forward with work on the BCEC before the aging Hynes must be closed out of necessity and the newer facility has to find calendar space for its older sibling's events.

The latest plan calls for a new 75,000-square-foot pavilion that can be combined with 26,500 square feet of prefunction space, for more than 100,000 square feet of contiguous space; the renovation of the first-floor kitchen; the completion of the third floor of the BCEC, which would add a 23,000-square-foot ballroom and 14,200 square feet of prefunction space; a connecting hall to the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport; and the improvement of the outdoor pedestrian area along D street, with a 10,000-square-foot deck and more.

MCCA spokesperson Mark O'Leary says the story of 2022 helps justify a green light for the expansion: "We just came off our best financial year on record, and everything's looking great numbers-wise for 2023."

Los Angeles Convention Center

No agreements are in place yet, but time is of the essence to expand the Los Angeles Convention Center and nearby JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, as the Olympic Summer Games are headed to town in 2028. Last March, a $1 billion plan was approved by the City Planning Commission. Of the money, $500 million would be used to add 700,000 square feet of space to the convention facility, including a new span connecting the West and South halls. The other $500 million would be used to construct an 861-room tower at the hotel, for a combined total of 1,861 rooms at the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles.

"While the LA Convention Center and Marriott expansion have been pushed back due to the pandemic, AEG and the city are actively working together to finalize the agreement," said Chris Heywood, senior vice president of global communications for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. "We're excited to see the project moving forward since the Center expansion and additional hotel inventory are key components to the success of the Games."