Although it had its official local grand opening earlier this month amid beautiful Southern California weather, what many considered the “real” ribbon cutting of the 100,000 square foot Grand Plaza in front of the Anaheim Convention Center took place…in the lobby of the convention center…during an uncharacteristically harsh winter rain storm.
“We’ve got to use our imaginations,” said Charles Ahlers, president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, as he spoke in the lobby just before The NAMM Show opened its doors to registered attendees Thursday, Jan. 24. “It’s not the way we want it to beå, but we can pretend it is.”
With that, the massive new $20 million outdoor space in front of the convention center with 151 palm trees, 80,000 sq. ft. of colored concrete and more than 20,000 plants was open for business. And although its official morning opening was rained out, it was clear enough by early evening for the first big NAMM-related concert (of more than 250 scheduled during the show) with the soul-funk band Tower of Power.
The largest event to take place each year in Anaheim, the tradeshow put on by National Association of Music Merchants brought more than 95,000 attendees to the city. The showfloor stretched out over 518,000 sq. ft. of the convention center with more than 1,500 exhibiting companies.
It was also the occasion for CVB and convention center officials to announce details of a plan to expand the convention center in the next couple of years.
“We really need more meeting space,” says Convention Center Manager David Meek. “We’d like to attract more medical shows like we used to.”
Plans are for construction to break ground in late 2014 or early 2015 on a $160 million to $170 million expansion that would give Anaheim more meeting space than any other venue on the West Coast, according to Ahlers.
“None of the others have enough meeting space either,” Ahlers says. “It’s almost a race to get it done.”
The new Grand Plaza replaced a six-lane avenue that once funneled traffic to the front of the center and provided access to the Hilton Anaheim and the Anaheim Marriott Hotel, on each side of the plaza. At the gateway to the plaza on Harbor Boulevard is a 40-foot-high rotunda that mimics the rotunda of the convention center itself about 600 feet to the west.