ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Regional leaders came together in downtown St. Louis to celebrate the groundbreaking of the America’s Center expansion project known as AC Next Gen.
The groundbreaking kicks off the long-awaited expansion and facelift for the America’s Center Convention Complex, which was last updated in 1995. The first phase of the multi-million-dollar project includes a 72,000-square-foot exhibit space with natural lighting and a new entrance; more than twice the number of loading docks for access to the exhibit space; a food farm; and other improvements to meet the needs of today’s events.
“The last few years have been very challenging for the industry, and that makes today even more important: we are back and building something new that will benefit St. Louis and event planners for many years to come,” said Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis.
“This expansion to America’s Center will help secure its place as a beacon for travel and tourism in the Midwest, creating good jobs for working families across our region,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “Attracting more conventions and attractions will strengthen our city’s urban core and make downtown an even better place to live, work, and play.”
The AC Next Gen Project will be funded by existing hotel tax payments and expects to increase direct spending of meeting and events at America’s Center to $394 million annually, generate 491,000 in room-night demand, and support 4,950 jobs post-expansion. The project’s cost of $210 million will be paid without a tax on local residents. The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County have each approved $105 million in new bonds, backed by a regional hotel tax paid only by guests staying in area hotels.
The first phase of the project includes the following elements.
- The new hall roof has a 210-foot clear span for exhibit flexibility. It features natural daylight from windows located above the level that exhibit booths occupy. Black out shades will be fitted to ensure the space can be darkened for audio-visual presentations
- An expanded, enclosed loading dock directly serving the three north exhibit halls. It more than doubles the existing loading dock capacity and is configured so that trucks no longer need to back into the dock blocking a local street, making it more conducive to the residential neighborhood to the north, and is provided with a new sidewalk and landscaping where there was none on the south side of the street. An opaque façade screens the docks and trash dumpsters from view and features an iconic “Super St. Louis” sign to help brand the center and provide an Instagram-worthy image