St. Louis City and County join forces for a $175 million renovation of the America’s Center to help attract more meetings and conventions
By Charlotte Beard
Many St. Louisans may be able to name the city of St. Louis’ mayor that was in office between 1965 and 1973. Many may even be able to tell you the connection between that mayor and The America’s Center Convention Complex. However, most people may not realize that since the time of Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes’ spearheading of the original development of the Cervantes Convention Center (part of the complex) it hasn’t undergone any renovations.
On Oct. 3, St. Louis City and County officials announced the America’s Center (AC) Next Gen Project estimated at $175 million, which will update and expand the complex. The official date for commencement of the project has not yet been announced.
“I’m excited to announce a joint commitment between St. Louis City and St. Louis County in
America’s Center,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson of the city of St. Louis. “This investment has paid off for the St. Louis region in the past and it will continue to do so in the future.”
Following the opening of the Cervantes Convention Center in 1977, it underwent a south end expansion in 1993. Two years later The Dome at America’s Center opened.
The growing competition with meeting/convention facilities and amenities in other Midwest cities has caused St. Louis officials to find this AC Next Gen Project necessary. Sources indicate that St. Louis has experienced a decline in event bookings for the downtown facility.
“This is a good deal for county taxpayers as the proposed revenue will be paid from out-of-town visitors who stay in our county hotels and motels,” said County Executive Steve Stenger of St. Louis County.
To clarify, the project will be funded by the extension of payments from the designated fund set up through the hotel and motel taxes collected in St. Louis City and County, which was initiated to build The Dome at America’s Center. There will be no new tax on residents.
The AC Next Gen Project includes several goals. The addition of 92,000 square feet of exhibit space will be an expansion to the existing 502,000 square-feet of exhibit space. The expansion will allow larger events.
Currently, the complex has a 28,000 square-foot ballroom; this project will create a 65,000 square-foot multi-purpose ballroom and meeting area with 20,000 square-feet pre-function event space. The Gen Project also aims to improve service access to the current and new exhibit halls and ballrooms.
Though the center currently has 12 loading docks that will be renovated, this investment will bring the addition of 26 new loading docks. All docks with be enclosed to enhance access and beautification of the surrounding areas. In addition, convention attendees and area workers will have the privilege of enjoying a new outdoor pavilion.
“The America’s Center plays a critical role as an economic driver for the entire region,” stated Kathleen ‘Kitty’ Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis. “The complex is truly a window for the hundreds of thousands of event attendees who visit us and are hopefully inspired to return here for future leisure or business event purposes. On an annual basis, St. Louis hosts over 25 million visitors who spend more than $5.8 billion in our community. Expanding and upgrading the America’s Center will help us build on these visitor numbers and the 88,000 local jobs they help support throughout our region’s hospitality industry.”
CUTLINE: Submitted photos This artist’s rendering shows what the expanded America’s Center Convention Complex would look like upon completion.