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On the Road to Recovery: Indiana, Orange County & Fort Worth Convention Centers

by H. K. Wilson

As 2020 draws to a close, we anticipate opportunities to create something new. Poet T.S. Eliot had the right idea when he wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” Convention centers across the nation are forging ahead with expansions, new initiatives and re-imagined events that are putting a fresh face on prospects for 2021.

Indy Officially Racing Forward with Approval to Expand the Indiana Convention Center, Add New Signia by Hilton Hotel

Indy CC hotel pix 2The Indianapolis City-County Council voted unanimously to approve up to $155 million in bond financing to expand the Indiana Convention Center.

This will be the sixth center expansion since opening in 1972 and will add 143,500 square feet of event and function space, anchored by a 50,000-square-foot ballroom, the largest in Indiana. It will connect to a new $300+ million Signia by Hilton hotel on a site known as Pan Am Plaza immediately east of the center in the heart of downtown Indy.

Construction is slated to begin in 2022 on both the center expansion and the Signia by Hilton and will be done by a local developer, Kite Realty Group Trust, which also built the Conrad Indianapolis. The project is anticipated to open in 2025.

Indy CC hotelSignia by Hilton is a new brand the company describes as “designed by meeting planners for meeting planners” and is currently being developed in three cities: Indy, Orlando and Atlanta. Indy’s Signia will stand 42 stories tall and offer 800 rooms and additional meeting and event space inside the hotel.

This expansion will increase the total exhibit hall, ballroom, meeting room, and pre-function space at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium complex to more than 1.1 million square feet, while boosting the total number of hotel rooms directly connected to the center via climate-controlled skywalks to more than 5,500. The project also includes plans for a second Hilton-branded, 600-room hotel on Pan Am Plaza to be developed in the future.

For more info, visit www.VisitIndy.com/indianapolis-planner-new-developments.

OCCC Hosts Orlando Winterfest and Holiday Market

OCCC christmas treeAlliance Nationwide Exposition launched the Orlando Winterfest and Holiday Market at OCCC in partnership with International Drive Business Improvement District and iHeartMedia Thursday, Dec. 3-6.

With the cancellations of previously scheduled holiday events in Central Florida, Orlando Winterfest and Holiday Market was the first announced holiday gift show of the year. The event provided an opportunity for companies to network with their customers face-to-face and facilitate their product and craft sales in a safe and festive holiday marketplace. In addition, Winterfest offered family-friendly activities, festive food and beverage options, live music and entertainment for all ages.

OCCC carolersAs an event partner, iHeartMedia, brought publicity and media marketing by utilizing its vast network of live broadcast stations, billboards, social media and digital services to the inaugural holiday festival. OCCC decorated for the holidays with festive photo opportunities showcasing designer sets, trees and wreaths placed throughout the large exhibition hall.

Guest and team member safety was a top priority. Alliance Nationwide Exposition and OCCC staff ensured that all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines were followed. Furthermore, Winterfest adhered to the Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation on outbreak prevention, response and recovery. The OCCC received accreditation in May and, since then, has successfully hosted several sporting events and conventions without illness or incident.

Cowboy Christmas Finds New Home in Fort Worth for 2020

Cowboy-Christmas-2020 globe fieldCowboy Christmas, the Wrangler NFR’s official gift show, was hosted this year at the Fort Worth Convention Center as part of a 10-day event that included the Cowboy Christmas markets, a tradeshow and NFR-sanctioned competitions.

Visit Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Sports Commission, the City of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Convention Center (FWCC), Will Rogers Memorial Center (WRMC), Dickies Arena, Omni Fort Worth Hotel, Cowtown Coliseum and Stockyards Heritage Development Co. all partnered to ensure COVID-19 safety measures were implemented ahead of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) activities Dec 3-12.

The Convention Center had more than 80 hand sanitizer pedestals strategically located throughout the concourse and exhibit hall and Will Rogers had more than 100 stationed around the facility. Masks were required, and temperatures were taken for all guests, vendors and employees. Free masks were available at both facilities. Health and hygiene signage was placed throughout with special attention to entry doors, restrooms and other high-traffic areas. Plexiglas barriers were installed in restrooms, concession stands and key areas around the facilities.

The Convention Center and Will Rogers have applied for the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s Star Accreditation, which guides facilities on the establishment of comprehensive protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention. Based on GBAC guidelines, staff has been trained on and new equipment purchased for cleaning, disinfection and sanitizing protocols.

Cowboy Christmas is the biggest Western gift show in the world and considered the ultimate shopping and interactive experience, with unique western wear and goods, official Wrangler NFR and PRCA merchandise, entertainment and more. All Fort Worth host facilities closely monitored updates from the CDC and local health authorities and followed recommendations and guidelines, yielding a safe and enjoyable experience for all who attended.

Upcoming stories in this series will feature companies and individuals who have pivoted or created new products to survive these difficult and challenging times. Please email us at newsdesk@exhibitcitynews.com for inclusion in future stories in this series.


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