In the events industry, a new venue can grab people’s attention.
The addition of spacious indoor and outdoor meeting areas, lavish entertainment centers, and fresh dining options can revitalize a destination, generating excitement—and new revenue—from visitors and locals alike.
But it’s not just host regions that get a revenue bump. With careful planning, associations can get in on the action and boost their own bottom line.
Grand Venue Plans
“Convention centers are typically an economic driver not just for the center itself but for the surrounding area,” said Charlie Beirne, general manager of the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. “You bring people into your hotels, your local restaurants, your local shopping.”
That’s the hope for the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which has entered the final phase of a multiyear expansion of its waterfront property. During the first phase of the renovation, in 2020-21, the convention center’s West Building expanded from 200,000 square feet to 350,000, capable of accommodating nearly double the number of exhibition booths.
After the building reopened, the first event set a positive trajectory for what’s to come. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, featured 1,000 exhibitors, drew more than 100,000 attendees, and boasted more than $1 billion in economic impact.
The current phase of the expansion project is perhaps even more ambitious. Broward County calls it “a vision becoming reality.” The east expansion will increase the convention center’s meeting space by more than 525,000 square feet—to 1.2 million square feet total—including exhibition space, waterfront ballrooms, an 801-room Omni Fort Lauderdale headquarters hotel, and a 6-acre outdoor waterfront plaza.
Larger Revenue Potential for Associations
The renovation is a flagship accomplishment for Broward County, but its economic possibilities expand beyond the area’s borders. With a larger venue comes heightened revenue potential for associations looking to make their own flagship moments in the events landscape of 2023.
“Meeting planners will be able to have more of a larger-scale meeting, therefore more attendees, more exhibitors, and everything associated with that,” Beirne said. “Once everything is complete, it’s going to be more of a premier destination for associations.”
Beyond simply increasing attendance, however, a newer, larger space enables planners to add creative and interesting elements to their events to keep attendees engaged (and paying dues). For example, modern, tech-forward spaces can help planners:
- Refresh expo hall layouts: Modular, customizable spaces let exhibitors get more playful and create immersive experiences.
- Host sessions outside: Venues with landscaped green space can give the same benefits as wholly outdoors meetings without compromising on amenities.
- Create more in-hall advertising: Tech-enabled spaces invite more, and splashier, digital advertising opportunities.
- Design more connectivity-friendly engagement opportunities: Faster internet access options and charging stations open up more opportunities for programming that relies on real-time online experiences.
Also, when destinations invest in venues, it can ramp up possibilities for planners seeking to secure space in a tight venue market. Broward County’s expansion yields two sizable convention centers—the already finished West Building and the in-progress East Building—creating double the opportunity for groups looking to book.
Expanded Selling Points
Improved venue spaces can boost programming opportunities. But the renewed possibilities of a modern event space don’t end with the last session of the day. When renovations are done in a way that highlights a location’s attributes, they become selling points for planners in promoting their annual meetings and creating recreational possibilities that lure attendees.
In the case of the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, a 65,000-square-foot ballroom will open out to the Intracoastal Waterway, the extensive canal system that earns the city the nickname “Venice of America,” where visitors will see all kinds of yachts and cruise ships.
Enhanced dining and recreational opportunities can come into play too, as with Broward County’s 801-room headquarters hotel managed by Omni Hotels & Resorts, with 120,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, restaurants, a rooftop bar, and an elevated pool deck. There will also be a 6-acre waterfront plaza that’s suitable for receptions and networking events.
“There are three planned restaurants in the plaza. You can do opening receptions outside in the amphitheater with acoustic music. Maybe a southern Florida vibe—steel drums, things like that,” Beirne said. “It makes people feel like they’re in a destination, in a resort, not just going to your typical convention center. You’re going to an experience, an Instagrammable moment, when you’re there.”