10 Things I Learned at Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Grand Opening #IMEX17

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2017 has not only marked the 50th anniversary of the Anaheim Convention Center, but also the unveiling of ACC North, a 200,000 square foot $190m expansion of new meeting space.

This is a sponsored post by Visit Anaheim. More information about Event Manager Blog’s sponsored posts.

It is always good news when a convention center is expanded. It means events are meaning business. Building or expanding a convention center is a mammoth job that involves public and private entities to come together and deliver. This is not always easy and it takes a long time.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the grand opening of Anaheim Convention Center North, the latest addition to the 50-year old venue, located directly behind another great event playground, Disneyland.

Here are 10 things I learned from attending the ceremony.

  1. Anaheim Convention Center was one of two only convention centers in the west coast until the early 80s

We are seeing more and more convention centers looking to expand as they recognize the importance of investing in upgrades and expansion projects, to keep up with competition and meet the growing needs of eventprofs. With this in mind, we’re seeing the economy change, markets move and factors like job roles these expansions create increase.

Last month alone, saw the Phase II completion of the $551m Moscone Expansion Project in San Francisco, while across the pond, the Queensland government unveiled concept designs for a major overhaul and expansion project plan of the Cairns Convention Centre. However, not all expansions or preparations run smooth, you only need to look at how the Austin Convention Center is fighting to get one opened.

  1. The Anaheim Convention Center now joins the 1 Million Square Feet Club

There are only a few other convention centers that can share such privilege. That means massive capabilities for very large events. By becoming part of this Millionaire’s Club, ACC joins the likes of:

  • McCormick Place, Chicago (2,600,000 square feet),
  • Orange County Convention Center, Orlando (7,000,000),
  • Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas (1,940,631) and
  • Sands Expo & Convention Center, Las Vegas (2,250,000).
  1. Southern Californians are defiant about weather

A big part of the convention center is the outdoor space. The ceremony was outdoors, the reception was outdoors. The plaza in front of the ACC is shared between the Anaheim Marriott and the Hilton, and was used for food trucks and a networking event.

  1. I want 10,000 sq ft balcony

Why would you not want that? The reception for the opening was upstairs on a ginormous balcony where most of the attendees spent time. I also interviewed one of ACC’s clients, Clint Upchurch of Extraordinary Events who runs D23, known as the ultimate Disney fan event. Earlier this summer, the biennial celebration brought together all the worlds of Disney, giving fans sneak peeks at upcoming movies, letting them experience The Walt Disney Company’s world-class storytelling.

At night on this balcony, you can see fireworks from Disney, directly in front of you. Talk about wowing your guests.

  1. Millennials love Anaheim

Sorry for using the M word, but this is a true case of identifying a specific age group. With events like BlizzCon and last year VidCon, Anaheim is the perfect spot to attract younger generations. The proximity to Disney is a big incentive as much as the proximity to Margarita Bars in Vegas is an attraction to adults.

  1. California’s attention to healthy food is reflected in catering

I was amazed by the incredible salad selection and healthy options. Being healthy does not mean whacking a slice of lettuce in a toast and say it is veg. One of the advantages of being in California is that most of the healthy food trends come from the O.C. I was also amazed to look at how ACC partners such as the Anaheim Marriott have their own garden where they pick fresh veg for your guests.

  1. Continuity in Venue Design

Ok this is something I never considered before. Listening to the architect who designed the space I understood how valuable a concept it is. Many times the new part of a venue creates a strong contrast with its old part. Inevitably attendees destined to the old part, will feel disadvantage. Even if it is a visual impact.

The ACC North building was designed with a strong continuum with its older brother. The flow is incredible between the two buildings. You can’t definitely say which parts are new.

  1. Do not underestimate the power of walking distance

This is by far one of my favourite features about Anaheim as a destination in the US and specifically about the convention center. Many hotel options are within walking distance. This is incredibly powerful to create that sense of intimacy and playground atmosphere where attendees can feel part of a community.

  1. A community needs to be involved in these projects

Let’s be honest here, without community involvement there are more problems than benefits in such projects. The opening ceremony was an incredible display of community effort. From the firefighters to the builders, from the previous managers of the center to DMOs and local event professionals, I witnessed what sets a venue apart from its competitors, a joint effort.

  1. Southern California is Southern California

As much as you can hate the traffic, the crowds, the vastity of the area, Southern California has something about the vibe that is very difficult to replicate in other destinations. The laid back attitude of the local professionals, that turns into laser focus business acumen is unbelievable. The vibe, the four airports, the beach within a short drive, the sun, the palms. These are meeting design elements that will inevitably impact your meeting and they all come as part of the package. No extra cost.

In Conclusion

This is the seventh and most significant expansion for the ACC. By taking advantage of the existing site conditions, the complete Anaheim Convention Center now raises the bar for convention centers worldwide.

Anaheim is now on the map of larger meetings and a serious contender to Vegas and Orlando. Anaheim is cementing its position as world class meeting and events destination and truly has more to offer than just its sunny Southern Californian beaches and Disneyland.