Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2011
Convention Center Review
By: Solomon J. Herbert, Jr.
The goal of today’s convention centers is to provide the same comforting, hospitable yet professional attention that is offered in the hotel setting. Centers are achieving this by undergoing drastic upgrades and renovations such as larger and more stylish looking facilities, enhanced food and beverage services, updated cutting-edge technology for meetings and conferences as well as the addition of in-house meeting planners to help through the booking process, to name a few. In addition, convention centers are becoming more and more environmentally friendly, resulting in a larger number of green certified facilities. With all the renovations and upgrades many of the convention centers across the country can match top-of-the-line hotels when it comes to fulfilling your group event needs.

When planning your next meeting please consider one of the following convention centers as options for your event. By investing in the African-American market they acknowledge the value that Black meeting planners and their associations bring to the table, and deserve your business.

The Austin Convention Center is a LEED® Gold certified building located in the heart of the capital of Texas, one of the most affordable cities in America. The convention center has a convenient downtown location, between the shores of Lady Bird Lake and historic Sixth Street. It has easy access to I-35 and is a short distance from 6,000 downtown hotel rooms. The facility’s expansion has allowed events to expand their conventions, trade shows and expos. It has also brought new conventions and visitors to Austin and its convention center.

The Center features 881,400 gross sq. ft. and covers six city blocks. The five contiguous Exhibit Halls have 246,097 sq. ft. of column-free space, 54 meeting rooms and show offices with 58,152 sq. ft., and seven ballrooms, including one with 43,300 sq. ft. Pre-wired during construction, the Center is a gigabit rated building. It is one of the most technologically advanced convention centers in the country, with state-of-the-art communication and utility services. Two close by garages provide 1,685 parking spaces for visitors.

Aramark, the Center’s food and beverage management division, is an exclusive service offering premier food and beverage preparation. The Center also boasts of two fully-equipped kitchens.

Total Exhibit Space: 246,097 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 79,525 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 43,300 sq. ft
Number of Meeting Rooms: 54
Telephone: (512) 404-4500


In the heart of thriving, fun-filled Birmingham is the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Here you will find everything you need for whatever your event requires: an array of top-notch facilities, 757 adjoining guest rooms, a helpful event staff and a host of specialized services. An impressive 220,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space is just the beginning. One of the most compelling features of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex is that it has all the right components in one complex.

The centrally located, modern facility also includes 100,000 sq. ft. in 74 meeting rooms, and The Medical Forum, a conference facility unlike any other in the country that's equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology.

Also you will find a 18,000-seat arena, a 2,800-seat Concert Hall, a 1,000-seat theater, 757 adjoining modern guest rooms at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, complete in-house catering service as well as on-site covered and valet parking. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is conveniently located 10 minutes from the Birmingham International Airport and at the apex of several major interstates, making it super-accessible by car, bus or plane.

Total Exhibit Space: 220,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 110,000 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 15,522
Number of Meeting Rooms: 74
Telephone: (205) THE-BJCC

The Chattanooga Convention Center continues to serve the convention industry with superior service and amenities. Chattanooga, located in the southeast corner of Tennessee, is within a day's drive of over half the population of the United States.

From the open, contemporary layout of the pre-function areas to the expansive exhibition, meeting and banquet spaces, the Chattanooga Convention Center represents a refreshing environment for any convention, meeting or event. The expanded Chattanooga Convention Center represents nothing short of a revolution in exhibition space design. Unlike traditional meeting space (with dark ceilings that beg to be ignored), the Convention Center's sophisticated lighting technology allows natural sunlight directly into the spacious exhibition area. The result: bright, evenly distributed lighting that's not only more visually pleasing, but also brings with it all of the psychological benefits of working in pure, natural sunlight.

The Center's new design features an enhanced lighting system that uses sunlight filtered through openings in the 30-ft. ceilings as a primary light source. Special sensors monitor the brightness of direct and diffused sunlight entering the building and adjust indoor lights to accommodate for the changes. The more natural light there is entering the building, the less artificial light used.

Then, there is the space itself – a total of 312,000 sq. ft., which includes 100,000 sq. ft. of clear span exhibit space, 21 meeting rooms and six ballrooms – all with state-of-the-art connectivity. Removable walls complete the package, allowing exhibition and meeting spaces to be configured to your specifications.

Total Exhibit Space: 312,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 100,800 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 18,360 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 21
Telephone: (800) 962-5213


The Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center, opening August 2013, is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Cleveland, surrounded by first class hotels and restaurants and within walking distance of several entertainment and sightseeing venues. The location is only 15 minutes from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The one-million square foot LEED silver-certified facility features approximately 230,000 square feet of Class-A exhibit space tailored to the needs of the both the medical and mainstream marketplace, approximately 60,000 square feet of high-tech, flexible meeting rooms, and a 30,000 square foot Grand Ballroom offering stunning views of Lake Erie.


The Cleveland Public Hall, located adjacent to the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center, was constructed in 1922 in the grand opera tradition and features a spacious 21,780-sq. ft. registration lobby, a 10,000-seat auditorium, the 3,000-seat Cleveland Music Hall and 600-seat Little Theater.

Total Exhibit Space: 270,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 88,000 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 32,000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 35
Telephone: (210) 920-1430


The Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) is Georgia’s newest and second largest convention center. Located adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and just 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the GICC offers 400,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space to accommodate every need. The 150,000-sq. ft. Exhibit Hall is divisible into four separate halls and can fit over 800 10’x10’ booths. Best of all, the GICC boasts Georgia’s largest ballroom — 40,000 sq. ft. — with room enough to seat over 3,000 guests.

In Fall 2009, the GICC became one of the first facilities in the country where event and convention goers were able to fly into an airport, disembark their plane and arrive at the front door of the facility, all without ever getting in a taxi, bus or shuttle. The ATL SkyTrain, a new light rail train project, transports travelers from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the airport’s new Consolidated Rental Car Agency Complex (CONRAC). The 1.4 million sq. ft. CONRAC is the centralized car rental headquarters for Hartsfield-Jackson. The great news for GICC patrons is that the second station of the APM is at the front door of the GICC, making it even easier to access the impressive facility.

To further add to the amenities of the GICC, The 147-room SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway, headed off a major expansion taking place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2010. The Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway also opened in 2010, complete with 403 rooms and more than 300,000 sq. ft. of event space. Both properties are adjacent to the Georgia International Convention Center and utilize an automated people mover connected to the airport.

Everything about the facility is both beautiful and state of the art. Whether dining on a 4-star meal prepared by the GICC’s world-class culinary team or touring the GICC’s $1 million+ art collection, the GICC offers only the best to its clients.

Total Exhibit Space: 150,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 150,000 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 40, 000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 35
Telephone: (770) 997-3566


The eight-square-block Kansas City Convention & Entertainment Facilities can accommodate every need with 388,800 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space on one floor, 48 state-of-the-art meeting rooms, a 2,400-seat fine arts theater, an arena that seats more than 10,700 people and two unique outdoor reception, festival and activity areas. The complex is connected to major downtown hotels and underground parking by glass-enclosed skywalks and below-ground walkways.

With 388,800 sq. ft. of contiguous, column-free space, Bartle Hall’s main exhibition hall covers an area the size of eight football fields. This allows for more than 2,000 10-by-10 ft. booths, and enough room to create eye-catching pavilions or huge equipment displays without having to squeeze them between columns.

The facility’s meeting space is no less impressive. The new 40,500-sq. ft. Grand Ballroom is expandable to 46,400 sq. ft. for events up to 4,000 people, while the Junior Ballroom/Great Hall boasts 23,910 sq. ft., 28-ft. ceilings and is divisible into eight breakout rooms. Twenty-six meeting rooms offering 61,816 sq. ft. of function space, as well as a two-level conference center round out the facility’s amenities.

The complex’s Municipal Auditorium offers an Arena with 7,316 permanent seats, 2,405 sears on risers, plus capacity for 1,000 theater-style on the main floor; a 46,000-sq. ft. Exhibition Hall; a 2,363-seat Music Hall; and a 400-seat Little Theatre.

Total Exhibit Space: 434,800 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 388,800 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 46,400 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 26
Telephone: (816) 513-5001


The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, located in the heart of downtown, hosts over 700 event days and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually for conventions, trade shows, concerts, theater, and sporting events.

This SMG-managed, state-of-the-art facility includes three dynamic, multi-purpose Exhibition Halls as well as unique entertainment venues at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center which includes the Terrace and Center Theaters, and the Long Beach Arena. The Terrace Theater is a full-production 3,051-seat theater featuring world-class concert performances and Broadway shows, while the Center Theater, (825 capacity), provides a more intimate setting.

With 34 Meeting Rooms and a Grand Ballroom, three dynamic Exhibition Halls, Long Beach Arena and the Terrace Theater, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is ideal for all types of special events, conventions and tradeshows, and is within walking distance to everything.

Total Exhibit Space: 400,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 224,000 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 20,456 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 34
Telephone: (562) 436-3636

The Montego Bay Convention Centre opened its doors in 2011 as the perfect venue for conventions, trade shows, banquets and theater-style conferences. The centre was built as a response to a growing need for meeting and convention facilities on the Island of Jamaica. The centre was constructed by the Government of Jamaica in conjunction with the Chinese Development Bank.

Soaring ceilings add volume to the 56,788 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, which accommodates general session setups and up to 282 exhibit booths.  This space may be sectioned into two halls with separate loading entrances for simultaneous shows. Loading docks and direct drive-in access to each hall makes setup easy and efficient. Each section is equipped with its own concessionaire stand as well as floor bays for provision of power, data lines, water. Additionally, each section of the hall has attached office spaces for the meeting planners and internet kiosks for fast private browsing.

The Montego Bay Convention Centre Grand Ballroom spans 18,845 square feet with banquet seating for up to 1,600 guests. Pre-function and break out areas extend the ballroom space by 3,143 square feet. A marvel of architectural design, the Grand Ballroom is divisible into three sections and features track lighting, surround sound, projection screen with 5000 lumen projector, fixed stage lighting, wireless internet access, plush carpeting and beautiful Chinese inspired decor.

Offering more than 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, The Montego Bay Convention Centre’s nine meeting rooms (some with natural lighting and views of the Caribbean Sea) can accommodate events of all varying sizes. Whether it is a large meeting with 600 persons theatre style or an intimate board meting for 10 delegates our rooms can accommodate you.

Our meeting rooms are sound proofed and have track lighting, surround sound and numerous meeting essentials to successfully deliver your meeting message. Projectors, screens and state-of-the-art audio/visual capabilities are also available and our Business Centre is equipped to support any business transaction needed to keep your event operations running smoothly.

Total Exhibit Space: 130,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 56,788 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 9
Telephone: (876) 622-9330-2

Owned and operated by Orange County Government and located in the heart of the area's tourism district, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) serves as the perfect event destination. Whether you are visiting as a planner, an exhibitor, an attendee or a member of the community, the OCCC is committed to making your experience with them a success.

The 7 million-sq. ft. facility, comprised of the West building; 1,103,538 sq. ft., and the North/South building; 950,282 sq. ft., provide everything a planner needs to offer their client maximum satisfaction for meetings and conferences. The OCCC is well equipped for events of all sizes, having a total exhibit space of 2,053,820 sq. ft., 232 breakout rooms, 74 meeting rooms totaling 479,190 sq. ft., the 62,182-sq. ft. Valencia Ballroom, and Linda W. Chapin Theater seating 2,643 people.

The Orange County Convention Center offers many services that will help your meeting or conference move along smoothly and proficiently. Some services include a Business Center comprised of a FedExKinko’s, a personalized catering service, restaurants & concessions, Internet, Telecommunication & WiFi: SmartCity as well as audio visual equipment for lectures and shows. If you are a planner and want to entertain your attendees while in Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort are all within a short distance of the convention center.

Total Exhibit Space: 2,053,820 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 479,190 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 62,182 sq. ft
Number of Meeting Rooms: 74
Telephone: (800) 345-9845


The San Diego Convention Center is located on sparkling San Diego Bay in the heart of a vibrant downtown. Abundant, flexible space and five-star service make the San Diego Convention Center the meeting planner's choice for hosting major conventions, trade shows, meetings and special events. From floor plans to pricing guides to policy details, there can never be too much information when planning a successful event.

The convention center is well equipped with 525,701 gross sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space on the ground level, 90,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space in the Sails Pavilion on the upper level along with 72 meeting/banquet rooms totaling 204,114 sq. ft. of space. Additionally there are two ballrooms, totaling 80,706 sq. ft. and eight show manager offices overlooking the exhibit halls.

The convention center boasts 184,500 sq. ft. of landscaped terrace levels with spectacular bay views which is ideal for receptions and breaks, 284,494 sq. ft. of prefunction, registration and circulation areas including the lobby which features 115,756 sq. ft. of convenient registration areas. There is a 138-seat capacity onsite restaurant, a 36-seat bar, eight concession stands in exhibit halls, 2 full-service kitchens, portable specialty services and three Starbucks lobby operations. At the San Diego Convention Center having the most updated technology is a must. Center comes ready for any event with complete A/V production capabilities, full-service FedEx/Kinko’s business center on-site providing fax, copying, express mail, packaging and printing.

Total Exhibit Space: 615,701 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 525,701 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 40,955 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 72
Telephone: (619) 525.5000


The sparkling waterfront vistas bring the warmth and light of the Florida sunshine directly into your meeting rooms at the Tampa Bay Convention Center. The 600,000-sq. ft. building offers 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 36,000-sq. ft. ballroom, and 36 breakout rooms that total over 42,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting space. Add to that, over 84,000 sq. ft. of flexible public space and you have the best venue for any meeting, convention or special event. The facility’s beautifully appointed décor and unique architectural designs create a setting that showcases its natural surroundings. The conveniences of a vibrant downtown, adjacent first-class accommodations, and Florida's largest variety of destination offerings blend together to make Tampa Bay a remarkable venue.

The Exhibit Hall, divisible into 75,000-, 100,000-, 125,000- or 200,000-sq. ft. areas, can accommodate up to 1,000 10’x10’ booths. The Ballroom is divisible into four sections, and can accommodate up to 3,600 theater-style, 2,080 for banquets and as many as 170 10’x10’ booths. An in-house information system, cybercenter business services, and a wireless hot spot are just a few of the center’s features. Planners will find 2,200 hotel rooms within walking distance of the center, with 2,700 downtown and 20,000 citywide.

Total Exhibit Space: 200,000 sq. ft.
Largest Hall: 200,000 sq. ft.
Largest Ballroom: 36,000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 36
Telephone: (813) 274-8511

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