Civic Leaders Pass Legislation to Update, Modernize & Expand America’s Center Convention Complex

Wednesday April 17, 2019

By Mark

For more information, contact:
Anthony Paraino, Explore St. Louis
(314) 992-0654

For Immediate Release 

AC Next Gen Project Will Ensure the Complex Remains an Economic and Employment Generator for the Entire Region

ST. LOUIS (April 17, 2019) –St. Louis City and St. Louis County have approved the AC Next Gen Project, which will update and expand the America’s Center Convention Complex to secure its place as an economic and employment driver for the region. The Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis passed legislation in December 2018 with the support of Mayor Lyda Krewson and Comptroller Darlene Green. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger endorsed the proposal, and the St. Louis County Council voted to pass the bill at their April 16 meeting.

The need to expand the Complex has never been more urgent as cities across the country are making large investments in their convention centers and luring lucrative meetings and events to their communities. An anchor for the entire region, the Complex hosts roughly 100 events annually, with more than 600,000 attendees, 300,000 hotel room nights and generating $265 million of new direct economic spending for the community, according to Johnson Consulting. The facility also provides more than 3,300 full-time jobs for residents across the St. Louis metro.

“We are pleased that the community has come together to support this critical project,” said Kathleen ‘Kitty’ Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis. “At present, America’s Center’s prominence and value to the region are threatened because its amenities have not kept pace. What we’ve seen in the last decade is that major cities in St. Louis’ competitive landscape have either built a new facility, like Nashville with a $623 million new convention center, or have made major improvements, like San Antonio which spent $325 million on building enhancements.”

Through the support of legislation proposed by elected officials in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County, the project will be funded completely by the extension of payments from the designated fund set up through the hotel/motel taxes collected, which was initiated in 1989 and approved by the voters of the City and County in 1990, to build an expansion to the Cervantes Convention Center. There will be no new tax on local residents, as this hotel tax is only paid by people staying in area hotels.

The next step for the project will be the development of cooperating agreements between St. Louis City and St. Louis County regarding the financing packages. Once this has been completed a potential timeframe and process for securing the project bonds will be determined.

“Throughout this process, we look forward to working closely with our clients, stakeholders and the community to ensure they are kept up-to-date on key milestones and developments as we begin work on the next phase of this critical project,” stated Ratcliffe.

The total cost of building the AC Next Gen Project is estimated at approximately $175 million and currently includes the following elements, as well as several other improvements.

  • Addition of 92,000 square feet of highly usable exhibit space, which changes the exhibit hall layout of the Complex allowing the facility to host larger events.
  • A 65,000 square feet signature multi-purpose ballroom and meeting area with 20,000 square feet pre-function event space for clients, positioning St. Louis dominantly in its competitive set.
  • 22,000 square feet of new support space to improve service access to current and new exhibit halls and ballrooms.
  • The construction of 26 new loading docks and renovation of existing 12 docks that will all be enclosed to enhance access and aesthetics of the building and surrounding areas.
  • An outdoor pavilion to serve the needs of convention attendees and improve the convention center district ambiance for residents and area workers as well.
  • Refurbishment of the central Washington Avenue entrance, which serves as St. Louis’ front door for the hundreds of thousands of event attendees who visit the Complex.
  • The Dome will remain a flexible multi-purpose venue for meeting planners and other clients hosting large-scale events and activities.
  • A video detailing the preliminary AC Next Gen project is available here.

Upon completion, these enhancements will stabilize the current decline in event bookings and potentially create nearly 36 percent growth according to the most recent estimates by Johnson Consulting.

About Explore St. Louis:

Explore St. Louis is the driving force behind St. Louis’ $5.8 billion convention and tourism industry, the official destination marketing organization of St. Louis City and County and operator of the America’s Center Convention Complex

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