The traditional convention center model is broken and at least two major venues have begun experimenting with new ways to fix it.
That was one of the conclusions from a session on the opening day of IAEE’s Expo! Expo! Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Houston. In the session titled “Is the U.S. Convention Center Model Broken?,” executives from Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) described how the model is broken and why they are partnering with show managers in a new way in at least one effort each to fix it.
“The correlation between the economic impact and what show managers are willing to pay is reversed,” said James Rooney, MCCA executive director, pointing to the fact that local governments are putting pressure on venues to become more financially self-reliant, show managers are negotiating for space from stronger positions and deferred infrastructure improvements are necessary at many venues.
As a consequence, he told the session, his authority has invested nearly $500,000 in a new initiative to partner with show managers in launching new shows. The first one, announced at Expo! Expo!, will be the Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange (A3E), in conjunction with the Sitarian Corp., scheduled Sept. 23-24 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
Likewise, David Audrain, president and CEO of Clarion Events North America, told the session of a tradeshow his company launched this year in conjunction with the Georgia World Congress Center. The inaugural edition of the Atlanta Foodservice Expo took place in late October.
“It wasn’t a great launch, but it’s still alive,” Audrain told the IAEE audience. “It couldn’t have happened without the partnership [with the Georgia World Congress Center].”
Tony Calanca, executive vice president of Advanstar Communications, said that, while his company, a private equity owned firm, had not partnered with any venues, “We entertain it, just like anything else.”
Nevertheless, Calanca added, he is aware of the problems with the current convention center model and is anxious to see alternatives.
“Something’s going to work,” he said, “and we’re going to learn from it and it will change our business. I’m anxious to see how it turns out.”