The Transformative (Super) Power of Convention Centers

PLAY OF THE LAND

From the Bruce Waynes of Wall Street to the Daredevils of Hell’s Kitchen, thousands of superheroes and villains alike descended upon the Javits Center this month for the 12th annual New York Comic Con. For four days, the cosplaying community came to life inside the 760,000-square foot showroom – bearing witness to a city-wide transformation.

The Javits Center, like any convention center, is very much a city within a city,” says Tony Sclafani, chief communications officer at the Javits Center.

Indeed, the experience was anything but conventional. Looking up at the massive steel spires and cross stitched beams, one could see the result of the venue’s five-year renovation, which included the addition of a nearly seven-acre green roof, more than 100 energy-efficient HVAC units and the removal of its former dark-mirrored glass façade.

The renovations at the Javits Center are reflective of a growing trend where convention centers are shifting to meet the evolving needs of customers.

“We’re becoming much more integrated with the community around us, especially with sustainability, and we’re now seen much more as a partner within the community,” says Sclafani. “Today, the show floor looks more dynamic, more lively, more exciting than ever before. Event producers are starting to change the layouts of their shows to accommodate a new generation of consumers armed with mobile devices and tablets.”

Event producers are starting to change the layouts of their shows to accommodate a new generation of consumers armed with mobile devices and tablets.

Across the nation, convention centers are doubling down on their investments and expansions. The Las Vegas Convention Center is undergoing a $934 million expansion that includes an additional 600,000 square feet of exhibition space, building landscaping and canopy over the building’s loading docks. In Florida, an estimated $500 million is being allocated toward the Orange County Convention Center for additional space and a new ballroom, while Miami Beach Convention Center is in the midst of a $620 million-dollar renovation. As for the Javits Center, the renovations are anything but conventional. The venue is investing another $1.5 billion on an expansion that will add 1.2 million square feet of total space, as well as 27 new loading docks.

With the recent advances in technology, sustainability has been top of mind for many of these convention centers — including the Javits Center. Before the renovation, the center had an issue with birds colliding with the dark mirrored windows. The incidents led to an unfortunate moniker: “The Darth Vader of the Hudson,” Sclafani says. But just as Darth Vader was reformed in the end, the Javits Center found its way back to the light.

Whether it’s a college graduation, automotive show or comic convention, convention spaces are being built to accommodate and capture the essence of what makes each community unique.

With its new, bird-safe windows, collisions have dropped by 90 percent. What’s more, since installing a green roof, the Audubon society has identified 26 species of birds nesting on top of the center. With fully functioning bee hives and a garden that will supply its restaurant with seasonal vegetables, the Javits Center is proving that going green is the way of the future.

“Convention centers are economic engines that support the industries of their cities and beyond,” says Sclafani. “In New York, the Javits Center supports the tourism industry, the restaurant industry, the hotel industry… So many businesses and people depend on the work that’s done here.”

Whether it’s a college graduation, automotive show or comic convention, convention spaces are being built to accommodate and capture the essence of what makes each community unique. As Comic Con travels on to another venue, the Javits Center will once again transform into another hub for enthusiasts. In a matter of days, the interior will become something entirely different. In a matter of years, so will the exterior.

How’s that for a super power?

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