Mar 1, 2021 - News

The Colorado Convention Center had a rough year but could fuel local revitalization

Denver Convention Center at dusk.

The Colorado Convention Center in Denver at dusk. Photo: Ken Ross/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Keeping the Colorado Convention Center closed for most of 2020 cost "far more than expected," Richard Scharf, the president and CEO of Visit Denver, told Axios.

By the numbers: The economic impact of lost convention center business and related hotel bookings last year topped a whopping $720 million.

  • This year looks rough, too. The city-owned megavenue has already lost at least 152 vendors β€” a blow of about $392 million.

Why it matters: Denver's largest meeting space serves as a major economic driver for the downtown district, hosting hundreds of events each year for thousands of people who put their pennies into hotels, shops and restaurants.

Context: Last April, Gov. Polis repurposed the Convention Center into a COVID-19 overflow hospital, "essentially canceling all conventions for the remainder of the year," Scharf said. The alternate care site was never needed.

The good news: The convention center plans to resume hosting events as early as May, Scharf said.

  • The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a major event, returns in August.

Plus: The years-delayed $233 million expansion β€” which includes another 80,000 square feet in meeting space and a new rooftop terrace β€” remained on track during the pandemic.

  • Officials are now boasting "definite plans" to break ground in June and open in late 2023.

The big picture: The pandemic is fueling competition among cities of all sizes to build bigger, better event spaces, meaning convention tourism could be the next big push to revitalize local economies, the New York Times reports.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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