Ottawa Bids Farewell to Old Center

Aug. 27 [marked] the last convention to be held in the existing 84,000-sf Ottawa Congress Centre. Demolition of the building in the Canadian capital begins in September to make way for a 200,000-sf venue that will be able to hold concurrent shows and meetings for national and international groups, both of which had gone elsewhere due to insufficient space.

Expected to debut in April 2011, the new center will be a four-level construction. To be connected to the 495-room Westin Ottawa and the Rideau Centre mall, it will have dedicated levels for the exhibit halls and meeting rooms, as well as a 21,000-sf ballroom. It intends to be LEED-certified, built with low-VOC and recycled construction materials and equipped with water-reuse, advanced waste management, and green housekeeping and maintenance systems.

It has been estimated that the current center, which opened in 1983, has cost Ottawa at least several hundred million dollars in lost revenue over the past five years. After years of failed plans for a new site, it was decided that the best course of action was to scrap the existing building and rebuild on the current footprint because it is flanked by major roads leading into downtown Ottawa and therefore close to the city's stock of 6,000 hotel rooms.

The Canadian and Ontario governments have pledged $50 million each in the new building's funding, and the city is pumping $40 million into the project. "The momentum of this project, thanks to the support of the governments and the city, will see that a world-class convention center will happen—finally," said Patrick Kelly, the center's president.

The center has pledged to relocate both displaced staff and scheduled groups for the two and a half years during which the site will be out of commission.

Originally published Aug. 11, 2008