Elected officials and community leaders gathered on Chester Road on Tuesday to celebrate the completion of a $24 million expansion of the Sharonville Convention Center.
Speakers at the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting included Sharonville Mayor Kevin Hardman, Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece, State Sen. Louis Blessing III, Rolling Hills Hospitality owner Bimal Patel and Jeff Berding, chair of Visit Cincy, the region’s visitor and tourism bureau.
Those in attendance had a chance to tour the new-look facility and check out the various upgrades. That includes getting a first look at the new Todd Portune Hall, named in honor of former Cincinnati City Council member and Hamilton County commissioner. At 40,000 square feet, the hall will be the largest flexible space in the county when the Duke Energy Convention Center closes later this year for a planned $200 million expansion.
A major goal of the expansion is to help Sharonville and Hamilton County attract and retain more convention, meeting and tourism business during the expected two-year closure of the downtown Cincinnati convention center.
Financial forecasts from Sharonville indicate an expected initial annual economic impact of the project will be $15 million. The city believes that figure has the potential to grow to $27 million annually in the first five years.
“The Center has always had a reputation for excellence and attention to detail, and that is certainly reflected in the expansion,” said Jim Downton, executive director of Sharonville Convention Center. “But most importantly, the expansion allows us to keep more business in the city and the county.”
In the past, the Sharonville facility had to turn away business because of space restrictions, Downton said.
“We won’t have to do that anymore,” he added.
More investment in Sharonville, the region
Other new facility amenities include a free-standing bar and restaurant called Northern Lights Café and the creation of Aurora Marketplace, a grab-and-go concept offering fresh foods and beverages. The project also added three new entrances, more restrooms, additional box office capacity and technology enhancements, including the addition of complimentary wi-fi for guests.
Hardman said the expansion is an example of the city’s growth. He noted the opening of two new hotels and a new brewery – right across from the center. The city also completed a $15 million streetscaping and infrastructure project.
Funding for the expansion mostly came from the city of Sharonville and Hamilton County. The state of Ohio provided $600,000 in capital as well.
“This expansion, combined with other recent projects, makes Sharonville a stronger regional and national presence in the meeting, convention and tourism market,” Hardman said. “That means more revenue for the city and county, more jobs for our residents and stronger economic development.”