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Multi-million dollar investments stimulate Greater Cincinnati

Expected to break ground later this year, a new $14 million Hyatt Place hotel, which will be connected to Sharonville Convention Center in Ohio, was just what the doctor ordered – or in this instance: event organizers.

Ever since the City of Sharonville, a part of the Greater Cincinnati metro area, invested $25 million to expand Sharonville Convention Center to 80,000 square feet in 2012, business has ballooned by 70 percent, according to Jim Downton, the venue’s executive director.

Photo credit: Bruce Crippen SCC's Executive Director Jim Downton
Photo credit: Bruce Crippen
SCC’s Executive Director Jim Downton

Additionally, the city-owned facility holds 350 to 400 events a year, which Downton said generates 30,000 room nights annually. Sharonville Convention Center also breaks averages in terms of the exhibition space used, according to an annual study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“The average exhibit hall occupancy for a U.S. convention center that is less than 100,000 square feet is 40 percent. Our exhibit hall occupancy is much higher than the average — We are at 70 percent. Even though we just expanded in 2012, it might not be long before we’re talking about expanding again,” explained Downton.

Adding a convention hotel, just like the facility’s expansion was years earlier, is part of the city’s economic development plan to transform the entire Northern Lights District in which Sharonville Convention Center resides.

Northern Lights at the End of the Tunnel

When the venue opened in 1994, the Northern Lights District was nearing the end of its reign as a top entertainment destination.

The late 90s and early 2000s saw a downturn that sent retailers, hoteliers and restauranteurs packing to parts unknown. To some, it probably didn’t matter where these business owners went — the problem was that they were no longer in Sharonville.

Although the convention center continued to have a steady stream of business from regional and corporate events, according to Downton, these occurrences sent city officials on their current course of action to revitalize the Northern Lights District.

In 2013, City of Sharonville Economic Development Director Chris Xeil Lyons commissioned Hotel & Leisure Advisors to conduct a feasibility study to discover the economic impact of constructing a hotel adjacent to the convention center.

A rendering of the upcoming convention hotel.
A rendering of the upcoming convention hotel.

What probably held the most weight were the opinions of the meeting planners. Eighty percent of Sharonville Convention Center’s customers are corporate meeting and event planners, said Downton.

When interviewed as part of the feasibility study, they increasingly requested the added convenience that only an adjacent hotel could bring, such as not having to drive to the venue.

Due to the busy atmosphere during large events, such as Victory of Light or HorrorHound Weekend, attendees may have difficulty finding parking spaces at the convention center. To lessen this problem, Downton said the venue offers complimentary parking onsite, with 1,100 parking spaces, and across the street.

“With the construction of Hyatt Place directly adjacent to the center, the majority of the center’s primary hotel product will exist within a highly convenient one-block area. Adding the hotel makes potential meetings and events incredibly walkable, a major selling point for planners looking at the area,” commented Barrie Perks, vice president of sales and services, Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.

With plans officially approved, Hyatt Place Sharonville/Convention Center is expected to break ground late summer or early fall, according to Lyons.

What Event Organizers Ordered

In 2014, the city entered a public-private partnership with Rolling Hills Hospitality to finance and develop the hotel. By April 2015, Rolling Hills had signed a franchise agreement with Hyatt Place.

As a hotel representing the corporate lifestyle, Hyatt Place seemed like the perfect fit for Sharonville Convention Center’s core customer base, according to Lyons. She stated that the Hyatt brand also complements the architectural design of the venue.

“The building is absolutely gorgeous. It’s contemporary, with wood, glass and steel. You walk in and love being here, and it’s well-maintained. You don’t see that with a lot with convention centers,” Lyons added.

Guests can check into the 120-room Hyatt Place Sharonville Convention Hotel in 2016.
Guests can check into the 120-room Hyatt Place Sharonville Convention Hotel in 2016.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the 120-room Hyatt Place Sharonville will be just as contemporary as its neighbor. At six stories, its exterior design will feature metal and glass. The hotel will have 120 peak room nights.

In addition to event attendees, hotel demand is expected to increase because of the $140 million Princeton School District development. This will include a 2,500-seat sports arena, 1,200-seat performance theater, and 500-seat natatorium along with several outdoor baseball and soccer fields.

Lyons said she pictures the Northern Lights District becoming a haven for corporate, sports and performance visitors. She also envisions a time when a second convention hotel may be needed.

Until then, City of Sharonville has other projects on the agenda. Also highlighted in the feasibility study from Hotel & Leisure Advisors was the need for retail and restaurant space near the convention center.

The city, according to Lyons, hopes to secure land across the street from Sharonville Convention Center to further boost tourism and attract events.

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