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It's fierce competition for the lucrative convention market, and Las Vegas had better be on top of its game because business travelers sometimes long for something different as opposed to repeat visits to Vegas.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority plans to borrow and spend $2.5 billion to develop the Las Vegas Global Business District, an overhauled convention center facility that will include a World Trade Center and multimodal transportation hub.

The project will be the first major expansion for the 54-year-old, 3.2-million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center in more than a decade. LVCVA leaders say it is essential to keep the facility ahead of its competition.

Las Vegas consistently ranks as the country’s top meetings destination. The city markets itself as a place where conventioneers can mix business with pleasure, broker deals during the day, then hit the town at night.

The city can accommodate large shows in multiple venues, including the Convention Center, Sands Expo and Convention Center and Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and with 150,000 hotel rooms, the city can handle gatherings of any size.

The proximity of McCarran International Airport to the city’s meetings spaces also plays well with conventioneers, as does the airport’s nonstop flight offerings and relatively inexpensive fares.

Last year, 4.9 million people attended 21,615 shows in Las Vegas.

But the competition is fierce. Convention hosts from coast to coast hope to grab market share from the valley.

Which cities are Las Vegas’ biggest convention rivals?

Here’s a look:


Like Las Vegas, Orlando tries to sell itself as a business and pleasure destination. Meeting planners tout the proximity of convention facilities to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

People can attend meetings and spend an extra few days at the theme parks. Or their spouses and children can enjoy the attractions while a convention is taking place.

Orlando says it has the second-largest convention center in the country. The 30-year-old Orange County Convention Center draws 1.4 million people to more than 200 events a year.

Orlando’s signature shows include the Premiere Beauty Show, PGA Merchandise Show, AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

The convention center is near several large hotels, and a bridge connecting the facility to the Rosen Plaza Hotel, an 800-room convention hotel, is expected to be completed this summer.

Orlando also is a center for medical tourism. Lake Nona Medical City, a 650-acre health center for medical care, research and education, is a global destination for health care services.


The largest convention center in North America is Chicago’s McCormick Place, which sits two miles south of downtown Chicago and hugs the shore of Lake Michigan.

McCormick Place includes four connected buildings that have more than 175 meeting rooms, ballrooms, assembly halls and theaters.

Each year, it hosts the Chicago Auto Show in February, International Home and Housewares convention in March and National Restaurant Association show in May.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is a hub for United and American airlines and about 12 miles from the convention center.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in February also announced plans to build a $400 million, 1,200-room hotel adjacent to McCormick Place. The project is expected to begin next year and be completed by 2016.

San Francisco

More than 900,000 people attended conventions at San Francisco’s Moscone Center last year.

The convention center, which has six exhibit halls and 700,000 square feet, is home to the annual Oracle and SalesForce shows, which each draw between 40,000 and 60,000 people.

The Moscone Center sits in the heart of downtown San Francisco, in walking distance of dozens of hotels, museums and restaurants.

San Francisco International Airport is a key West Coast international gateway, is home to Virgin America Airlines and serves as a hub for United Airlines. The airport is 14 miles from the convention center.

San Diego

Geographically, San Diego is Las Vegas’ closest convention rival. But by size, the two are far apart.

With 615,700 square feet of exhibit space, the San Diego Convention Center, located near San Diego’s Gaslamp District on Coronado Bay, is the 24th-largest meetings facility in the country.

It is four miles from San Diego International Airport, which has direct flights to several western U.S. cities and a handful of international destinations.

Representatives of the San Diego Convention Center Corp. said about 800,000 people attended 180 events at the center last year.

The biggest draw was Comic-Con International, the largest comic book convention in the country. It brought in 126,000 people.

New Orleans

If any rival convention city understands the concept of work-by-day, play-by-night, it’s New Orleans.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is just off the Mississippi River and within walking distance of the French Quarter. It has 20,000 hotel rooms nearby.

Last year, the convention center hosted 128 events that 825,791 people attended.

The biggest shows include the International Workboat Show, Essence Festival, International Jewelry Fair and General Merchandise Show.

The convention center also is a prime destination for Mardi Gras balls and parties.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is 14 miles away. But once conventioneers arrive at the center, most of the city’s attractions are only a short walk away.

The convention center also received a major renovation in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina.

New York

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York calls itself the “Marketplace for the World.”

Indeed, the center, New York City’s major convention facility, has world-class access with three major international airports less than an hour’s drive away. Javits also is a 20-minute walk from Penn Station and the New York Port Authority.

Located on the west side of Manhattan, the center is in the midst of a four-year renovation that will add 80,000 square feet of exhibit space to a new extension called “Javits Center North.” It will include loading docks, an outdoor plaza and the largest “green” roof in the Northeast.

Last year, the Javits Center attracted 3 million people.

Its largest shows include the International Fancy Food and Confection Show, International Vision Expo, New York Now (formerly known as the New York International Gift Fair), American International Toy Fair and National Retail Federation’s annual convention.

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Tags: las vegas, meetings and events

Photo credit: The Las Vegas Convention Center is slated to get its first overhaul in a decade. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

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