by F. Andrew Taylor
The New Orleans Morial Convention Center has made a habit of overcoming adversity. The first buildings that became the convention center were built as part of the Great Hall of the World’s Fair in 1984, which was the first world exposition to declare bankruptcy during the event and the last to be held in the U.S.
The following year the convention center was established and in1992 it was named in honor of Ernest N. Morial, the city’s first African American mayor. In August 2005, Wheel of Fortune came to tape three weeks of shows at the MCCNO but as Hurricane Katrina neared, they canceled the last week in order to evacuate. The MCCNO was the second most important shelter for survivors, after the Louisiana Superdome but there was no power, water, food, medical supplies, proper sanitation and public order for several days with thousands of survivors staying there.
Despite that, the convention center thrives. It is the sixth largest convention facility in the U.S., with 3 million sq.ft. of world class, continuously improved meeting space of which 1.1 million sq.ft. of contiguous exhibit space. It consistently ranks in the country’s top ten of facilities that hold the most conventions and tradeshows annually. More than 2,600 major conventions and tradeshows have taken place there since 1984 and it has been host to more than 15 million attendees and industry leaders from all over the world.
A complete renovation of the facility in 2006 included the creation of the 4,032-seat New Orleans Theater, a concert hall used primarily for concerts, Broadway stage shows, and other special events. In 2008, it was renamed the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in order to emphasize its location.
The convention center is located on the Mississippi River, about a mile south of the city’s famous French Quarter. The operators of the MCCNO believe it is an essential component of what makes the city’s major business events so successful.
In June, the MCCNO Authority adopted a $557 million five-year capital improvement plan that includes renovations of the 34-year old center and a convention center headquarters hotel with a physical connection to the center. A 7.5-acre pedestrian park that spans the length of the center along Convention Center Boulevard is planned to create a picturesque and safer space for visitors. The project is projected to be complete in 2020.
This story originally appeared in the November/December issue of Exhibit City News, p. 60. For original layout, see our digital flipbook after November 1 at https://issuu.com/search?q=exhibit%20city%20news .