Last November, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) saw all-time high attendance at its annual Attractions Expo at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC).
The organization has seen such growth since hosting its event in Orlando, in fact, that it has decided to commit to holding the conference at the OCCC through 2030 and announced it is relocating its national headquarters to the destination. IAAPA expects to see even more growth at its expo following the OCCC’s upcoming $605 million expansion.
“Orlando is known for continually investing in the region’s growth, and this next phase of the Orange County Convention Center is another testament to our commitment to this industry,” George Aguel, Visit Orlando’s president and CEO, said. “The expansion at the center will create a wealth of new opportunities for groups of all sizes and will serve as a catalyst for additional development throughout our convention district, including new hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options.”
Upcoming improvements include the addition of new meeting and exhibition space in the North and South concourses, adding to the facility’s 7 million square feet of function space. Once renovations are completed, the OCCC will feature the new Convention Way Grand Concourse, providing an enclosed connection between the North and South concourses, making navigating the venue easier for attendees and planners. It will also boast an 80,000-square-foot ballroom with a grand entrance to the North-South building along Convention Way. In addition, there will be a new 200,000-square-foot Multipurpose Venue, offering flexible, divisible, column-free space, along with retractable seating to accommodate 18,000 to 20,000 guests.
“It’s definitely going to help us in the future and give exhibitors the space they need,” Hal McEvoy, IAAPA’s president and CEO, said of the expansion. McEvoy added that the enhancements will add to the long list of reasons IAAPA expo attendees enjoy coming to Orlando. “They can come to see the show, see the latest innovations [and] get educated, and then you have restaurants and the world-class attractions that Orlando has.”
IAAPA isn’t the only organization that’s setting records at the OCCC. When the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) held its 2018 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) at the convention center last October, it managed to bring in actual aircraft for the event. “The people that come here are interested in products, … they’re interested in technology, and you can only do so much with a screen or chalkboard,” Ed Bolen, NBAA’s president and CEO, said. “People want to feel what they’re going to be involved with when they get into an airplane. So, having real aircraft, helicopters [and] fixed-wing airplanes inside the convention center, is something really special.”
Working with the city of Orlando and Orange County, NBAA was able to transport the aircraft from Orlando International Airport to the OCCC via public roadways — they ended up closing roads and carefully bringing the aircraft through town. Then, utilizing the OCCC’s 2.1 million square feet of exhibit space, plus features like extra-wide doors for loading and unloading, they were able to bring the aircraft inside and display them for attendees at the event.
“[An event like ours] means the convention center and everybody involved needs to be thoughtful, thorough, and well-planned,” Bolen said. “And what we’ve found is, those challenges are not only met [in Orlando], but they’re met with enthusiasm and professionalism, and that’s what keeps us coming back.”
With such meeting experiences, it’s no wonder Orlando has been ranked the Top Meeting Destination in the country by Cvent for six years in a row. To learn more, visit OrlandoMeeting.com.