Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 03 2016

How Will This Midwest Meetings Destination Be Transformed By 2017?

Jeanna Hofmeister

Riverfront City Continues to Dream Big

Nearly fifty years ago, the iconic Gateway Arch first opened to the public. Standing 630 feet tall, the nation's tallest man-made monument anchors the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and stands as the iconic calling card of St. Louis and the Mississippi River waterfront.

Now, a half-century later, the ambitious $380 million CityArchRiver Project is changing the landscape of the Gateway Arch, its museum and national park grounds.  The project includes the equivalent of more than 40 blocks of downtown that will get a major facelift featuring expansive new greenspaces and more. “This project will completely reimagine downtown, as well as the Arch experience,” says Ryan McClure, Director of Communications for the CityArchRiver Foundation.

In less than three years, the public/private partnership – which includes federal, state and local public agencies and a private non-profit organization - raised the necessary funds to complete the project. An additional $29 million is set aside to seed an endowment for a conservancy to help maintain what’s been built. “There are some very, very generous individuals, foundations and corporations here that care about St. Louis and the Arch,” says McClure.

Building a Buzz

The St. Louis transformation is rapidly gaining the attention of meeting planners from around the country who are looking for their next dynamic convention destination. And it’s no wonder. When 82 percent of attendees cite the meeting destination an important factor when deciding whether to attend (or not) a convention, destination development plays a critical role.

 “What we’re finding is that this project, and others throughout the region, are generating excitement for our convention package and how groups will experience St. Louis,” says Anthony Paraino, Director of Communications for Explore St. Louis. “The completed renovation of the Arch grounds will make this iconic national monument much more accessible for groups staying downtown, as well as to the conventions/meetings taking place at America's Center.“ By 2017, when it’s estimated the renovations will be complete, convention attendees can expect to experience a transformed city. “By better connecting the Arch to downtown, and creating more space for private events, it’s going to be great for conventions,”says McClure.

Design Inspiration

The project design is highlighted by a dramatic new “park over the highway” that will, for the first time, allow visitors to walk from the Old Courthouse to the Arch grounds to the riverfront on one continuous greenway, without a curb or stair-step in their way.  It also means attendees meeting at the America’s Center Convention Complex will be just a two-block walk from the revitalized grounds and renovated downtown.

The project scope calls for creating 11 new acres of parkland, five miles of bike trails, new spaces for events and performances, children’s play areas and a lively, re- invigorated riverfront, giving visitors new opportunities to explore and linger.

No Waiting

As soon as new sections of the park and greenspaces are complete, they’ll be opened to the public. That means access will come in stages, keeping excitement high. “I don't want to overuse the term,” says Paraino, “but this really 'transforms' the visitor experience in St. Louis!”

Find out more about meeting in St. Louis and what their dynamic destination developments mean for planners and attendees at the 2016 PCMA Education Conference. Register here for a first-hand perspective of how St. Louis is supercharging its appeal for group business.

Brought to you by Explore St. Louis

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