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Pasadena announces unique successes for convention business

It wasn’t long ago the Pasadena Convention Center was considered to be little more than a community center hosting low-profile, local events.

In the five years since undergoing a major, $162-million renovation and expansion, the 41-year-old Pasadena Convention Center has evolved into a full-service convention, meeting and events complex. It continues to outperform financial, occupancy and attendance expectations, surviving and thriving during the economic recession.

During the past year, the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau booked 38,508 room nights for 2013-14 and the future, or 104 percent of the Pasadena Center Operating Company’s annual goal. The total was 5,608 more room nights than were booked during the previous year.

Pasadena hotel occupancy has grown from 63.6 percent capacity at the end of 2009 to this year’s 84.2 percent occupancy rate through June.

In meeting its $7.9 million revenue goal for 2013-14, the center’s operating revenues exceeded operating expenses, a feat most center operations cannot boast of.

“The success of the Pasadena Convention Center has been a boon to the city in terms of hotel occupancy, additional business and a boost in overall tourism,” said Michael Ross, CEO, Pasadena Center Operating Company. “But we’ve been very successful on our own, bringing new, higher-quality events to the city. This has boosted our reputation in the convention and events business and has also helped us to build new, collaborative relationships and partnerships throughout the community and beyond.”

Reopened six weeks ahead of its expected completion date and below the construction budget, the center sits at the heart of the complex that also includes the historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium and the Pasadena Ice Skating Center. The renovated, state-of-the art center now features a 55,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 28 meeting rooms, along with the 3,000-seat Civic Auditorium and a 22,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.

Through concerted environmental efforts, the facility earned Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it one of the greenest convention centers in North America.

Once a small, under-performing event facility, today the Pasadena Convention Center is a highly desirable convention destination, as evidenced by the number of high-quality conventions, trade and consumer shows, meetings and other events that fill its halls.

More than the number of events that fill the convention halls and meeting rooms is the quality of the events locating in Pasadena and the associated number of local hotel rooms that they help to fill. For example, the Great Minds in STEM Conference will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center in October 2015 and will occupy more than 4,000 hotel room nights throughout the city.

Ross said the Pasadena Center Operating Company must continue to generate the necessary revenue to cover the construction project’s debt service payment, while helping the city recover from losses in transit occupancy taxes (TOT) and tourism business improvement district (TBID) funding during the economic recession. From 2009-13, Pasadena’s TOT and TBID saw a dip of almost 27 percent, or $3.65 million from original 2006 projections, while the Convention Center’s construction debt service escalated by more than $2.1 million because of the auction rate bond market fallout.

“With prudent management and experienced board oversight, the PCOC has been able to right the ship financially without the aid of a General Fund subsidy from the city of Pasadena,” Ross said. “Operating revenue has exceeded operating expenses by more than $2 million in each of the past three years, which is unprecedented in the convention center business.”

For more information, visit www.VisitPasadena.com

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