Cincy mulls convention center redo to lure new visitors, since that worked so well last time

Cincinnati tourism officials are pressing for a major renovation of the city’s Duke Energy Convention Center, and construction of a big new hotel next door, arguing that the city would otherwise see a big drop in visitors. Mike Latsch of the Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau says without the project, the city could lose 100,000 annual hotel room nights by 2022.

But the last time the city expanded the convention center, it literally had to scrape up the $140 million cost, using naming rights from Duke Energy and millions in contributions from local corporations in addition to local hotel tax revenues. The 2006 expansion actually did little to boost the city’s convention business. And in the decade since, Cleveland opened a new center, Columbus expanded its center, and Indianapolis opened a major expansion, increasing competition for scarce convention dollars.

Now, any expansion plans will have to compete for hotel tax dollars against renovations to the US Bank Arena — proposed in order to ready the venue for hosting the NCAA men’s basketball tourney in 2022 — as well as plans for a new Major League Soccer stadium. All this in a city and county that have already managed to pour an immense amount of public money into stadiums.


7 comments on “Cincy mulls convention center redo to lure new visitors, since that worked so well last time

  1. Neil:

    Where did you source this statement from?

    “The 2006 expansion actually did little to boost the city’s convention business.”

    Is it behind the WCPO paywall or somewhere else on FoS?

    Not questioning you, just interested in the stat.

  2. JC,
    They’re my numbers.
    A June 1995 PriceWaterhouse study of an expansion of the Sabin Convention Center said it then had convention and tradeshow attendance of 160,000.
    A followup PriceWaterhouseCoopers study in 1999 said the center had convention and tradeshow attendance of 141,000.
    The center used to post annual reports on its website, but hasn’t in the last few years.
    In 2008, convention and tradeshow attendance was about 270,000.
    in 2009, it was 210,189, and 186,997 in 2010.

    Heywood Sanders

    • Much thanks.

      I know nothing about the convention marketplace, but I wonder if the demand for any particular city’s convention center has more to do with the city itself–it’s brand and it’s non-convention amenities–than the center.

      Convention centers seem fairly cookie cutter, and the “mid-major” cities (even my own local San Jose and Santa Clara) are mostly all in the same brand boat: they ain’t San Francisco, New Orleans, Vegas, San Diego, New York, etc. So they are always going to hit a ceiling, no matter what they do. Too much supply in that range for too little demand.

  3. Actually, while the mid-sized cities all compete among themselves, usually without much success even with an expansion, the story isn’t very good anywhere.
    Take New Orleans.
    The Morial Convention Center had 503,144 out of state attendees in 2015.
    But it had 885,997 in 1999 when it was last expanded.
    And the year it opened, 1985, out of state attendance was 494,663.
    It’s not a pretty picture.

    • New Orleans may not be the best example as they are still bouncing back from Hurricane Katrina which decimated their convention traffic. Many of the large conventions book years out so bouncing back is a long process. I saw some numbers where they had finally just about gotten back to the pre-Katrina numbers despite the fact that convention numbers overall were far higher than back in 2005.

  4. ” the city could lose 100,000 annual hotel room nights by 2022″
    _____________

    I first read that as they’d lose that amount BY 2022 but they’re actually saying that would be an ongoing annual loss. That sounds really hard to believe. I’m guessing there’s no stats to show how that would come to pass.

  5. Robert,
    Good point on NO.
    So take the Las Vegas Convention Center.
    It was doubled in size in 2002.
    Attendance in 1999= 1.31 million
    Attendance in 2000=1.27m
    Peak year to date 2006=1.70m
    Attendance in 2015=1.30m
    Attendance in 2016=1.36m
    I’ll leave the conclusion to you.
    As far as Cincy, the 100,000 room nights figure doesn’t make much sense.

    hs