Leaders of the city and county of St. Louis have announced plans for an ambitious expansion of the America's Center Convention Complex, adding 92,000 square feet of exhibit space as well as a 65,000-square-foot multipurpose ballroom to the venue, among other developments. The officials emphasized that the $175 million AC Next Gen Project aimed to better position the Complex, located in downtown St. Louis, for larger-scale and more technically advanced conventions and events for years to come.
"I'm excited to announce a joint commitment between St. Louis City and St. Louis County in America's Center," St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said. "This investment has paid off for the St. Louis region in the past and it will continue to do so in the future."
The venue, originally built in 1977 as the Cervantes Convention Center, currently hosts approximately 100 events each year, totaling more than 600,000 attendees and 300,000 room nights, according to Discover St. Louis. Among the other additions, the modernization will add 20,000 square feet of pre-function space and 22,000 square feet of support space to the convention center, as well as 26 new loading docks and the renovation of the existing 12 docks currently on site. An outdoor pavilion will be constructed and the front entrance at central Washington Avenue will be refurbished.
Real estate and hospitality consultants Johnson Consulting expect the proposed changes to generate almost 36 percent growth in the convention center's event bookings and attract broader business throughout the city and county. The funding for the project will come from extending payments from a fund created to build The Dome stadium at America's Center, in which additional taxes are collected from St. Louis city and county hotels and motels.
This announcement comes just three months after the official opening of the reimagined Gateway Arch Park, following a five-year, $380 million renovation that converted the uninviting area of parking garages and freeways surrounding the St. Louis landmark into a pedestrian-friendly green space. A concrete garage was turned into an outdoor amphitheater (with parking moved below ground), 45,000 square feet were added to the Gateway Arch Museum, which was redesigned to flow into the Missouri landscape more seamlessly, and miles of walkable paths and trails replaced the car-filled streets, along with numerous other major changes that turned the area into an anchor for a revitalized downtown. The renovation of the America's Center Convention Complex is expected to further this city's reinvigorated allure for groups.
"The America's Center plays a critical role as an economic driver for the entire region," said Explore St. Louis President Kathleen Ratcliffe. "The Complex is truly a window for the hundreds of thousands of event attendees who visit us and are hopefully inspired to return here for future leisure or business event purposes."