With the passage of House Bill 617, officials with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center are now poised to move ahead as planned with negotiating a contract to build a new 1,200-room headquarters hotel as a centerpiece in the facility’s comprehensive five-year, $557 million capital improvement plan.
The plan was created in 2017 following intensive study and customer focus group research to ensure that modernization of the 35-year old convention center and other related investments would bring maximum value to the region by strengthening the city’s competitive hospitality advantages and generating new jobs for local residents and new tax revenues for the city and state.
Sponsored by state Rep. Walt Leger, the bill gained wide approval in both the House and Senate, and now awaits the Governor’s signature. The legislation, which was led by state Sens J.P. Morrell and Karen Carter Peterson on the Senate floor, allows the Exhibition Hall Authority, the convention center’s governing body, to move forward with the development of the planned world-class hotel, as well as the critically needed reinvestment into improvements at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“The Exhibition Hall Authority Board of Commissioners is delighted with the enactment of this important legislation, and is grateful to Governor Edwards and members of the legislature who understood the critical need to constantly improve our competitiveness and enhance what we offer convention clients and attendees from around the world,” says Authority Chair Melvin Rodrigue.
Rodrigue notes that the new hotel will generate an infusion of $280 million per year for the state and city economies and an additional $24 million in new tax revenues. “Taken collectively, building this hotel and the enhancements and other new investments we are undertaking represent the largest economic development initiative in the city in many years.”
It is estimated that hotel construction will employ about 1,900 people and that the new hotel will generate an additional 1,900 new permanent jobs for area residents.
Key features of the proposed Omni Hotel project include 1,200 guest rooms, 150,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, and multiple dynamic food and beverage and retail outlets. Enhancements and improvements being made to the convention center include replacement of the building’s 40-acre roof, significant upgrades to restrooms throughout the facility, and modernization of the meeting rooms and public areas. The Authority is currently funding a comprehensive reconstruction of Convention Center Boulevard to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists and to create a more appropriate and welcoming environment for the more than 900,000 convention center patrons who visit New Orleans each year.
“It is significant that these collective upgrades are being funded through convention center visitor taxes and convention center monies only, without a single local tax dollar being diverted from any important city or state projects,” says Convention Center President and General Manager Michael Sawaya.
Located along the mighty Mississippi River, within walking distance of the French Quarter, fine dining, attractions and 20,000 first-class hotel rooms, The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (MCCNO), the nation’s sixth-largest convention center, is the engine that drives the Crescent City’s hospitality industry. Together with New Orleans’ popular destination appeal, the MCCNO’s spaciousness, service and flexibility has enabled the facility to consistently rank in the top 10 for hosting the most national conventions and tradeshows annually since its 1985 opening. For more info, visit www.mccno.com.