by F. Andrew Taylor
Chattanooga has a rich history due to its location as a nexus and a transition city between the ridge and valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. That geography also led to many railroads converging in the town so it has been in the middle of many things. Over half the country lives within a day’s drive of the city. Despite that, the city was unable to attract significant convention business until they built the convention center in 1986.
The space, initially called a trade center, cost $46 million. For about the first 20 years of the CCC’s existence it did about $23 million in business each year, but that went up to $38 million in 2003 when a $45 million expansion was completed. Meetings and conventions contribute more than $1 billion in the tourism industry and approximately 8,500+ jobs in the region, so the investment seems to have been wise. The expansion was designed by architects Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson with additional daylight design by Innovative Design. Parks Beers was the construction contractor.
The current convention center has 100,000 sq.ft. of column-free exhibit space, 21 meeting rooms and 19,000 sq.ft. of divisible ballroom space on a single level. Following the 2003 expansion it also boasts a large number of green initiatives, including extensive use of natural light, and a fresh air ventilation and cooling system that lowers HVAC costs when the weather permits, which is often in Chattanooga’s climate. Additionally, the natural light seems to improve the attendees’ moods.
The roof was built using TPO, a white rubber membrane that reduces radiant heat while reflecting more natural light into the building. The design also utilizes architectural shading to keep more heat out of the building. The exterior windows are glazed for solar reflection resulting in smaller HVAC equipment; lowering the initial capital costs, operating costs and upkeep.
Additional shade is provided by streetscaping, which incorporates trees for additional solar control and natural cooling. Over 5 million gallons per year are harvested from the roof to irrigate the adjacent streetscape and landscaping and increase the energy efficiency and aesthetics.
A free, electric shuttle bus stops at the CCC every 15 minutes connecting it to more than 50 restaurants and 2,000 hotel rooms. An additional 8,000 hotel rooms and 150 restaurants are within 15 miles of the CCC.
The CCC is owned and operated by the Carter Street Corporation, an urban, community economic development in Chattanooga with a mission to encourage economic development.
Chattanooga is one of the most tech forward cities in the country and was the first U.S. city to have a citywide gigabit network earning it the nickname “Gig City.” That’s in addition to its official nickname “Scenic City,” and its other unofficial nicknames “River City,” “Chattown,” “Chatt” and “Nooga.” Perhaps it’s time for the city to face the fact that “Chattanooga” is a mouthful. Chattanooga is one of the most melodic and fun cities to enunciate, standing proud among other contenders, Tuscaloosa, Chicopee, and Bugtussle.
A wide variety of conventions have taken place at the Chattanooga CC including many major annual events. They include The Environments for Aging Expo & Conference, the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels, the Chattanooga Annual Tri-State Home Show, the Chattanooga International Boat and Sport Show, Guitarnooga Guitar Show, Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management Conference & Expo, and Model Con featuring display products like a plane model, technology, engine, avionics, wheel, and gun bays, ship models and much more, etc. in the industrial products industry.
Among the more colorful conventions that have taken place there are Con Nooga, a multi-fandom pop culture con, the Brickuniverse Lego Fan Convention and Metrotham Con, a multi-fandom convention with a different theme each year.
Tow trucks were invented in Chattanooga so the CCC is naturally home to the Tennessee Tow Show, the largest regional towing expo selling equipment products and services and industry-specific training.
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 40. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_may-june_2021