The SMG-managed Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC) completed the first quarter of 2015 with a flurry of activity, the arrival of new amenities and progress toward finalization of plans for the upcoming $125 million facility expansion and renovation project.
The GCCC is owned and developed by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority (FCCFA), which is now being led by Don Brown as executive director. Brown, a public service veteran formerly serving as the Franklin County administrator, guides the operations of the authority, which has a similar role in regard to the operating of Nationwide Arena and the Hilton Columbus Downtown.
Following a lengthy tenure with ARAMARK, Centerplate was chosen by the FCCFA to be the new exclusive caterer for the GCCC. Selected from among four finalists vying for the five-year contract, Centerplate is a leading hospitality provider to more than 300 premier convention and entertainment venues across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe. Centerplate, named by Convene as “Best Food and Beverage” provider for global meeting destinations, serves more convention centers than any other caterer. Facilities in which Centerplate has a presence include the Mercedes Superdome in New Orleans. FCCFA Foodservice Contract Manager Rodney Myers, formerly general manager of Franklin County Veterans Memorial, is the administrator directing Centerplate General Manager Matt Long and the locally based team. In addition to being dedicated to offering greater inclusion of local vendors, mobile food carts, expanded selections and enhanced service, Centerplate also donates to area charities serving citizens in need.
Now underway is the construction of the eight-level, 800-space Goodale Garage. Designed by NBBJ architects and being erected by Smoot Construction, the garage will inhabit the footprint of the former 192-space North Lot and eventually be connected to the GCCC by enclosed walkway. The new parking garage is an $18 million project that will be completed in early 2016. The garage will bring a net increase of about 610 more parking spaces to the facility, with a total onsite parking tally of around 4,000 spaces managed by the GCCC. This parking garage will be the closest location for guests entering the new post-expansion north main entrance. Designed as much more than a concrete car corral, the Goodale Garage will include a signature piece by an Ohio artist located on each level of the garage. The artists, ranging from the collegiate creative class to established professionals, will offer pieces to provide visual appeal and a memorable cue for guests to remember where their vehicles are located upon their return to the garage. As forethought for future development, the master plan also includes a tract of land near the Goodale Garage on which an additional hotel could be built.
The $125 million facility expansion and renovation will begin in September 2015 and will be completed in July 2017. The GCCC expansion and accompanying full interior renovation is being guided by the FCCFA with input from a customer advisory board from a variety of sales markets served by the GCCC. The project will encompass adding 36,000 square feet of exhibit space and more than 10,000 square feet of two-level meeting space. There will be upgrades to the GCCC and Hyatt Regency meeting rooms, ballrooms and public spaces in the areas of finishes, wall coverings, way-finding, technology, sound systems, ceilings, carpeting, social seating and lighting. There will be the addition of connectivity stations, public art, foliage, an executive boardroom, second-level exhibit hall VIP show offices and concierge spaces. There will be reimagining of the Food Court & Shops, concession stand and café locations. All meeting rooms and exhibit halls will be renamed.
The new project will include exterior renovation, featuring cleaning and repairing the exterior façade, adding enhancements to guide attendee arrival and navigation with way-finding, replacing all High Street doors and transforming the east and west connector pick-up & drop-off points from a service-entrance appearance to more of a welcoming sense of arrival. Lighting upgrades will include decorative lighting and public art, while other attributes will include an overhead canopy, outdoor café, event lawn, water features and additional landscaping. Upon completion, the venue will receive Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
LMN Architecture serves as the prime and design architect for the project, with Schooley Caldwell Associates as the associated firm. Founded in 1979, LMN has established 10 offices around the globe and also designed the renovation of the GCCC’s signature Battelle Grand multipurpose ballroom. Schooley Caldwell was founded in 1944 to serve public sector clients and
has since expanded to designing projects for privately owned companies. The physical transformation of the facility will be led by Corna Kokosing Construction Company and Elford, Inc. teams.
“Cities with which we compete for convention business – Nashville, Cleveland, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis and Cincinnati – have built new facilities, are expanding existing facilities or are considering renovations. This expansion and full renovation project will propel our facility and our city to the forefront of our competitive set and beyond,” said Greater Columbus Convention Center General Manager John R. Page. “Upon completion, we will be offering a more contemporary facility that exudes inviting warmth similar to an upscale hotel and provides an enhanced array of amenities augmenting the guest experience.”
The construction projects are building upon the established success of the SMG-managed venue. In 2014, the GCCC completed its most successful year in history. The first quarter of 2015 continued the momentum with the return of annual bookings such as the Arnold Sports Festival’s more than 200,000 attendees, and marquee citywide events, such as the 2015 National Hockey League All-Star Weekend, with the GCCC hosting the popular NHL Fan Fair, Fantasy Draft and pre-game festivities. The GCCC was also named a GreenSpot by the City of Columbus for sustainability excellence in advance of the NHL’s arrival.
Also within the GCCC, new merchants have joined the tenant mix in the Food Court & Shops on Level 1 in 2015. Donatos Pizza, a locally founded hometown favorite, has grown to a regional presence and is providing traditional and grab & go menus and delivery for GCCC guests throughout the day. The vibrant video wall and friendly staff within the new Columbus Visitor Center invite guests to learn more about our city in this new center operated by Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. In addition, a nursing mother’s room within the facility is nearing completion and a limited number of strategically located reserved parking places have been established for mothers-to-be and new parents arriving at the GCCC with their babies.
“Although we are fortunate to be long established as one of the busiest convention centers in North America, we are even more excited about the prospects for the future that the arrival of these new amenities, an additional parking garage and newly expanded and renovated facility will provide our guests,” concluded Page.
The Greater Columbus Convention Center, located in downtown Columbus, hosted an estimated 2.5 million visitors in 2014.