Seven years ago, the people of Owensboro were asked what we wanted during the “21st Century Town Meeting.” One of the top responses was really taken to heart: a revitalized downtown. Since then, over $200 million in public and private investments have been pumped into downtown improvements and developments; an accomplishment that put Owensboro back on the map and made national headlines. Recently, Owensboro earned the distinction of being named an “All American City.” Amidst all this attention, it’s hard to say who’s more excited about the newly opened Owensboro Convention Center; Owensboro residents, city officials, or the Convention Center staff.
With its unique exterior design, the new Owensboro Convention Center really is something to see! It’s even more impressive on the inside. Just in case you were not able to make it to the grand opening weekend, Global Spectrum’s Madison Strobel (Marketing and Public Relations Director for the Owensboro Convention Center) wanted to give readers a special “sneak peak” inside for this special section of Owensboro Living Magazine.
The ground floor mainly consists of the expo hall, which is one large, open space that can be divided into three sections, if needed. These are the three spaces you can see through the glass panes as you drive by the front of the building. “What’s unique about our expo hall,” Strobel says, “is that it is one, flat, open space with no columns.” The ceiling in the expo hall is 30 feet tall. That much open space makes the expo hall a perfect place for a variety of exhibits and events.
The second floor, called the mezzanine, has four smaller meeting rooms that can be used for break-out sessions or individual meetings. Each of those rooms range between 500 and 700 square feet. Like those on the first, the second floor meeting rooms can be configured differently to provide many options, depending on the needs for the space.
The open air design allows visitors to look straight up from the main lobby to the third floor balcony. The third floor is where the kitchen and back-of-house is held, but the main attractions are the two identical ballrooms (each 13,000 square feet) on the east and west sides of the building. The only difference between the two is that the east ballroom has a window along the outside wall which overlooks Veterans Boulevard and Smother’s Park. Each of those two large ballrooms can be broken down into five different sections. An added feature on the third floor is the “River View Room,” which is a smaller (3,500 square foot) room in between the ballrooms that has an all-glass wall providing guests with views of the river. If that’s not close enough for you, there is also an outside balcony terrace overlooking the river which will be illuminated at night for added effect.
Dean Dennis, Global Spectrum’s General Manager for the Owensboro Convention Center, explains how Global Spectrum was pretty aggressive in pursuing the opportunity to manage the convention center: “We knew Owensboro was a city on the move, so we really wanted to be here. When we got the request for a proposal, we responded immediately, put a proposal together, and offered all the assistance we could.”
Their strategy worked. So far, the partnership seems to be working very well, and the convention center is off to a great start. “I am biased,” Strobel admits, “but I truly believe that Owensboro made a great decision by hiring us because we specialize in managing these types of facilities. We have the experience to make this work.”
What he’s speaking of is Global Spectrum’s experience that comes from managing over 100 other similar facilities, including arenas, exhibit halls, and convention centers. With that broad range of experience, they bring with them all kinds of opportunities, proven ideas, and resources to help them run the Owensboro Convention Center effectively and efficiently.
[tw-divider]filling the center[/tw-divider]
Long before the building could even been shown, Global Spectrum was busy filling dates solely based on the initial drawings and plans. The excitement of using a brand new facility was enough to attract some events, but Dennis says that drawing from the Executive Inn’s reputation also helped drive sales. He explained, “The Executive Inn had a reputation of being a fun place, and it held several trade shows and small conventions. So one of the first things we did was contact those people again to let them know that Owensboro is back in the game.”
In fact, Dennis says the 2015 calendar is already filling up and there are several events booked all the way up to the year 2020. Part of that is because Global Spectrum takes a very active, entrepreneurial approach to booking events by creating new ideas to generate revenue. “Sometimes we create shows ourselves to develop more opportunities for local and regional businesses and industries to utilize the center,” Strobel explained. “We call these ‘in-house promoted’ shows because the idea didn’t come from the outside.” The Owensboro RV “Owensboro Outdoor Hunting and Fishing Expo” is one example.
Another initiative that Global Spectrum has used to bring events to the new convention center is called “bring your meeting home.” The idea is for Owensboro residents who belong to national organizations or are members of professional groups to bring their business meetings and conferences back here to Owensboro. So far they’ve had great luck with that program. Dennis says “This community is so excited for this new facility! Their willingness to help sell the building has just been incredible!” If that is something you could help with, there is a link on their homepage (www.owensborocenter.com) to submit a lead for “bring your meeting home.”
[tw-divider]helping the community[/tw-divider]
“We are all about helping this community, especially by adding to the economic impact that carries over into all of downtown,” Strobel said. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why one of the Convention Center’s main goals is to book multiple-day, large events. When conventions and trade shows bring in large amounts of people from out of town, those people will stay in our hotels, eat in local restaurants, and hopefully do some shopping and sight-seeing while they’re here. That’s why booking larger events is the priority for Global Spectrum, while the smaller events that fill out the calendar like meetings, receptions, and banquets are more of a benefit to Owensboro residents because it gives us another option for hosting those types of functions.
Owensboro Director of Public Events Tim Ross echoed that same idea: “The new Convention Center will be a key contributor for economic impact for our city, and will help us continue to grow as a destination where people want to visit and live.” Ross added, “The wide variety of events that will be taking place at the facility will further strengthen our community by drawing additional visitors and providing programming for our community.”
Strobel also noted that the Convention Center “is not out to take business away from existing facilities. Some events might be better suited for the RiverPark Center or the Hines Center, for example.” In those cases, the convention center will be glad to recommend other venues.
In the fall of 2014, the city plans to build an overlook pavilion using the existing pylons where the Executive Inn’s “Showroom Lounge” used to be, giving the riverfront one more attraction and the Convention Center another area to utilize for events.
The dream has become a reality; downtown is again a destination, drawing visitors from around the region and across the country. Existing businesses, newly opened businesses and merchants, Smother’s Park, and now the Convention Center are all creating synergy and benefiting from each other’s presence downtown. With the new Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn hotels opening just around the corner, the major pieces of the downtown master plan will soon all be in place. Once the streets are all opened again, we’ll be able to see the final picture, marking the start of a brand new chapter for Owensboro.
Mayor Ron Payne said, “The Owensboro Convention Center is a major part of the future success of Owensboro. I’m proud to be a part of the team that has led the way, and I’m proud of the citizens of Owensboro for their accomplishments.”
[tw-divider]by the numbers[/tw-divider]
- 173,758 square feet.
- 1975 tons of steel are in the facility.
- 8,992 cubic yards of concrete
- 34,600 square feet of exterior glass.
- 221 different sizes of curtain wall glass.
- 80,631 square feet of carpet.
- 63 miles of cable.
- 93 miles of electric wiring.
- 82’ tall on the North end.
- 8.4 acres.
- 6 escalators.
- 3 elevators.
- 3315 light fixtures.
- 6 loading docks.
- 80,631 square feet of carpet.