Kentucky International Convention Center, located in Louisville, Ky., will undergo a $180 million renovation and expansion. Announced Nov. 20, design firms HOK and EOP were chosen by state officials to work with the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet on the project.
Clifford Rippetoe, president and CEO, Kentucky State Fair Board, announced the selection at a fair board meeting, which manages Kentucky International along with the Kentucky Expo Center.
“The buzz around this project is exciting for the landscape of downtown Louisville and Kentucky as a whole, and we look forward to the many steps to come,” Rippetoe said.
According to Karen Williams, president and CEO, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is co-sponsoring the project with the fair board, the project will increase continguous space for tradeshows from 146,000 to around 230,000 square feet. The expanded space will be column-free exhibit room on the second level and is to include a large ballroom.
Louisville may have lost upwards of 20 conventions and 67,000 room nights in the last fiscal year due to inadequate convention facilities, according to convention officials. The economic impact is estimated at $57 million.
A proposal for a hotel near the convention center may also be in the works, according to Rippetoe.
Hired by the fair board, consultants attributed the problem to the facility’s confusing layout, poor signage, and outdated elevators and registration area.
Architect Don Grinberg of Boston, one of the country’s leading consultants on convention facilities design, will be on the design team along with HOK and EOP. HOK’s portfolio includes design work on the Anaheim Convention Center and the MGM Grand Hotel Convention Center. EOP’s extensive project list includes the Kentucky Horse Park, and will also design the renovation of Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center.
The state government committed to a bond issue to support the convention project and from which the design consultants will be paid.
A financial plan for the project includes $56 million in state bonds to be repaid with annual payments from the state general fund.
A 1 percent increase in Jefferson County hotel room taxes will pay off $41.8 million in bonds issued by the Louisville convention bureau board. Louisville Metro Council authorized the room tax raise, totaling 9.5 percent.
The facility’s $70 million project in 2000 will require about $60 million from the convention agency’s planned refinancing for the outstanding local bond debt. Finally, about $20 million has been pledged in annual $1 million contributions from the convention agency.