Convention center, arena updates highlight Visit Cincy meeting

The final renderings of the new-look Duke Energy Convention Center and the feasibility of a new arena were major topics of discussion Wednesday during Visit Cincy’s annual meeting.

More than 500 business professionals, civic leaders and members of the regional hospitality industry gathered at the Duke Energy Convention to learn about the state of tourism in Greater Cincinnati.

During the event, Visit Cincy – the region’s conventions and tourism bureau – reported considerable increases in hotel revenue and spending in downtown and across Hamilton County. The Cincinnati Sports Commission outlined a plan to relaunch efforts to capture sports tourism for the region as well.

Another highlight of the midday luncheon was the recognition of various people and organizations whose work has improved tourism across the region.

But among the biggest topics of discussion Wednesday was an update on the status of the upcoming Duke Energy Convention Center modernization project.

Keeping ‘Cincinnati’ in the Queen City

Adam Gelter, 3CDC’s executive vice president, presented an update on the reimagined downtown Cincinnati convention center and the to-be-built convention hotel across the street.

Renderings of the $200 million project showed towering walls of glass windows along Fifth and Elm streets in the Central Business District. The plan now includes closing Elm Street permanently to create a public plaza with walking paths, green space and art.

Convention Center rendering

Gelter’s presentation also showed the project plans to retain the iconic “Cincinnati” sign along Central Avenue, according to a report from WVXU.

“In addition to modernizing and making improvements to the interior of the building, the façade will receive a complete overhaul, opening up the building to natural light and enhancing the overall aesthetic of the structure,” Gelter said.

A regional approach to tourism

Visit Cincy chair Jeff Berding praised the recently completed Sharonville Convention Center expansion, which tourism leaders hope can help offset some of the losses stemming from the 18-month closure of DECC set to begin later this year.

The $24 million expansion of the Sharonville facility opens the region’s northern suburbs, hotels and the facilities for larger shows, meetings and events, Berding said. 

As a result of the project, Visit Cincy established its first-ever dedicated room night goal for the Sharonville Convention Center and implemented a strategy to move Duke Energy Convention Center bookings to Sharonville during the DECC’s closure.

Cincinnati Convention Center rendering looking NW

Berding also provided an update on the possibility of a replacement arena somewhere in Hamilton County. The Cincinnati Regional Chamber will lead a study to help regional leaders make a “bold, transformative decision” about a new arena.

As part of the process, public and private partners are assembling a working group consisting of staff from Cincinnati, Hamilton County, 3CDC, Visit Cincy and the Cincinnati Business Committee. Over the next few months, the group will review the pros and cons of the various locations and discuss how a state-of-the-art arena fits into the region’s broader sports and tourism ecosystem, Berding said.

They’ll look at how a facility without a professional sports team – “yet,” Visit Cincy clarified – can operate successfully in Cincinnati. 

Tourism booms, sports to follow (hopefully)

During the meeting, Visit Cincy reported several metrics highlighting growth in the regional tourism industry. Data presented showed Hamilton County’s hotel room revenue grew by 9% over last year and revenue in downtown Cincinnati jumped by 18%. Overall, the average daily rate for hotel rooms grew by 6% and average visitor spending increased by 23%, per Visit Cincy

To help sports tourism keep up with those other figures, Visit Cincy announced a plan to partner with the Cincinnati Business Committee and Cincinnati Regional Business Committee to reorganize the Cincinnati Sports Commission. As part of the process, the group will develop a new funding plan aimed at attracting top-level sporting events. 

The new Sports Commission will launch this spring.

Visit Cincy