Colorado Convention Center Sets Its Sights on Completion of Major Expansion in 2023
Denver is readying for a future boost in meetings and conventions business, with vertical construction of the $233 million expansion of the Colorado Convention Center recently culminating in a commemorative “topping out” ceremony, as the project remains on schedule for a late 2023 opening.
“This is a welcome milestone in the progress of the expansion, which will assist us with booking multiple groups simultaneously to maximize capacity,” said Richard W. Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER. “Ultimately, these improvements will pay huge dividends for years to come by generating new business for Denver in a very competitive industry.”
The expansion includes innovative new spaces, new design features and state-of-the-art technology upgrades, all of which will be seamlessly integrated with the existing facility and are aimed at reinforcing Denver’s status as a global competitor in the meetings and conventions industry.
The project features 200,000 square feet of new space, including an 80,000-sq.-ft. multipurpose ballroom, 35,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space and a 20,000-sq.-ft. rooftop terrace with sweeping views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.
The new additions are taking shape above the existing convention center, which remains in operation.
Located in the heart of Denver’s walkable downtown, the center capitalizes on the urban core and the nearby Rocky Mountains to attract meeting and convention business.
“The Colorado Convention Center has been a huge economic driver for Denver’s economy for decades,” said Rachel Benedick, executive vice president of sales and services at VISIT DENVER. “This expansion will allow Denver to continue to be a leader in the meetings, conventions and hospitality industries for years to come—capturing larger gatherings that were not able to meet here before and bringing new visitors to stay and play in our community, further bolstering our economy.”
The Colorado Convention Center upgrades are expected to generate an additional $85 million in annual economic impact.
Funding for the expansion included $104 million from Measure 2C passed by voters in 2015 and $129 million in Certificates of Participation (COP) issued in 2018, with repayment of the COPs derived from Tourism Improvement District revenues, a portion of the seat tax and excess revenues from the convention center hotel.
The Colorado Convention Center first opened in 1990. Denver voters approved the first expansion of the center in 1999, which doubled the building’s size to 584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 63 meeting rooms providing 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, 35,000-sq.-ft. and 50,000-sq.-ft. ballrooms, and a 5,000-seat theater. This expansion was completed in December 2004, and one year later, the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Denver opened directly across the street. Since then, Denver has seen phenomenal growth in hotel building and convention business.
A feasibility study in 2013 led to the 2015 voter-approved National Western Center and current Colorado Convention Center expansion. In fall 2020, Colorado-based Hensel Phelps Construction won the design-build contract for the project, and construction began in summer 2021.