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Convention Centers are Excelling with Niche Events

Meeting trends are constantly evolving, and convention centers must frequently adapt to engage new markets, whether that means acquiring more advanced technology or redesigning venue spaces.

Some convention centers maintain success by catering to niche events.

These five convention centers across the country have carved out a distinct role in the meetings and convention industry.

Arlington Convention Center

Arlington, Texas

This year, the city of Arlington, Texas, plans to complete one of its most ambitious projects to date: a $10 million e-sports stadium. The 100,000-square-foot facility will be the largest and most versatile venue of its kind in the United States, establishing Arlington as the epicenter of competitive esports in North America.

The plan came to fruition when the city began searching for ways to increase visitor traffic and received a recommendation from researchers at New York University to invest in e-sports. In 2017, the global esports market was valued at $493 million, a figure that is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2020. At present, the International Olympic Committee is even considering e-sports for inclusion in future Olympic Games.

Despite the rapid growth of this market, few facilities in the United States are designed to accommodate the unique needs of e-sports events, which require sufficient bandwidth and internet speeds to support hundreds of online players at once.

Arlington officials have partnered with e-game event experts such as Populous, Esports Venues and NGAGE Esports to transform the Arlington Convention Center into the country’s first dedicated e-gaming stadium, soon to be called E-sports Stadium Arlington. Upon completion, the stadium will include a main competition area, a broadcast studio, hospitality suites and team training areas. City planners expect the technological improvements and spacing arrangements to enhance the quality of all meetings and events hosted at the new facility.

The property is conveniently situated in the heart of Arlington’s Entertainment District near major attractions such as AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park and Six Flags Over Texas.

Salt Palace Convention Center

Salt Lake City

As home of the Mighty Five national parks, Utah is a well-known haven for active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. As a result, the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City frequently attracts groups with athletic and environmental backgrounds.

Sports events are Salt Lake City’s fastest-growing market. Over the past couple of years, the convention center has hosted over 2,000 attendees for the USA Weightlifting Olympic Trials, 5,100 attendees for the USA Taekwondo National Championships and 8,000 attendees for the USA Fencing National Championships.

Likewise, the convention center is a global leader in sustainability initiatives, building a 600,000-square-foot solar panel in 2012 and earning the IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award for creative use of leftover event materials in 2018. These efforts have attracted the attention of groups like the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and the Solar Energy Trade Shows

One feature that appeals to many of these organizations is the center’s unusual balance of open exhibit space and conventional meeting areas. The Salt Palace Convention Center encompasses 515,000 square feet of continuous exhibit space and 164,000 square feet of smaller meeting venues that can be divided into as many as 70 sections.

“This dynamic enables us to very often marry traditional conventions that use lots of meeting space and relatively less exhibit space with athletic events that typically need a limited number of meeting rooms and lots of exhibit space for competition use,” said Mark White, vice president of sales at the convention center.

The facility also offers flexible rent pricing, which greatly benefits budget-conscious planners. Instead of requesting a flat rate from clients, the convention sales team works with planners to establish a price based on dates, group size and other components.

“We recognize that some athletic events and small not-for-profit organizations’ budgets are extremely limited, so we make efforts to accommodate them,” said White.