By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor
Big upgrades in St. Louis make for bigger and better meetings
ASAE's 2011 Annual Meeting & Exposition, MPI's 2012 World Education Congress, and Major League Baseball's 2009 All-Star Game — these are just a few of the major events that have picked St. Louis during the past few years — and for good reason. With more than $5 billion in new developments, from new hotels to expanded attractions, plus a just-completed renovation of the America's Center Convention Complex, downtown St. Louis is experiencing quite a renaissance. And other groups are catching on — the FIRST International Robotics Championship will return in the spring of 2013 and 2014, and, for the first time, the American Bus Association will bring its Marketplace event to St. Louis in 2015.
Nearly $50 million has been spent to enhance both the look and the energy efficiency of the America's Center Convention Complex during the past two years. The complex encompasses four venues under one roof: the Cervantes Convention Center, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis Executive Conference Center, and Ferrara Theatre. During phase one, renovations included everything from new elevators to new catering kitchens, and in phase two, improvements to the exhibit halls, ballroom, and lighting were completed. The interiors have also been enhanced with new conversation areas and artwork to make attendees more comfortable outside of sessions and exhibitions. More than $30 million has been invested in the 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome as well, from new scoreboards and videoboards to an improved audiovisual and television experience in the Rams Club. The new Clarkson Jewelers Club was also added, offering prime field views, indoor lounge spaces, and other special amenities.
Meeting planners and attendees will also find plenty of new attractions, dining, and hotels surrounding the complex, if they haven't visited recently. The Mercantile Exchange features a mix of locally owned restaurants, boutiques, and a movie theater, and the Peabody Opera House has reopened downtown and now offers year-round entertainment in its historic 3,200-seat theater.
In hotel news, the 212-room Embassy Suites St. Louis Downtown opened in late 2011 in the historic Laurel Building across from America's Center, and The Cheshire, a Tudorstyle boutique hotel on the edge of Forest Park, has been recently revived. Attractions in the Forest Park area have changed and grown in the past few years as well. The Saint Louis Zoo debuted Sea Lion Sound, which includes underwater-viewing areas and an arena for daily shows. The Saint Louis Art Museum is finishing its dramatic expansion, set for completion in the summer of 2013, which will include the addition of the new, 200,000-square-foot East Building.
The area surrounding the America's Center Convention Complex has been lauded for its high walkability score, with easy access to hotels, restaurants, attractions, and activities that are quick for attendees to reach on foot. Walkscore.com calls the area a “walker's paradise” with a nearly perfect score of 95 points, and the American Planning Association calls Washington Avenue, just outside the convention center's door, “One of America's Top 10 Streets” for its beautifully restored historic architecture, restaurant hotspots, and growing hotel inventory. Attendees who head out on foot will discover a St. Louis that is friendly, walkable, and vibrant.
For more information: St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission — John W. Bettag, CMP, Vice President of Sales; (800) 325-7962 or (314) 992-0622; firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Louis Highlights
• The 1.2 million-square-foot America's Center Convention Complex — which includes 502,000 square feet of exhibit space, the 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome, 1,411-seat Ferrara Theatre, a 28,000-square-foot ballroom, and St. Louis Executive Conference Center — recently completed $50 million in renovations and energy-friendly infrastructure changes.
• St. Louis offers more than 8,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of America's Center Convention Complex and more than 38,000 hotel rooms citywide. All of America's top brands are represented, from Four Seasons and Westin to Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott.
• Getting around St. Louis is easy with the MetroLink light rail, which has stations across downtown and throughout the region. Stops include attractions and sports facilities as well as both terminals at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
• With more than $5 billion in new downtown developments, St. Louis offers attendees a vibrant, ever-growing meeting destination with something new to explore on every visit.
Convention Center Specs
Total exhibit space
• 502,000 square feet
Total number of meeting rooms
• 28,000 square feet
• 1,411-seat Ferrara Theatre
• 66,000-seat Edward Jones Dome
Hotel rooms within walking distance of the center
• More than 8,000
Hotel rooms citywide
• More than 38,000