San Antonio debuted a $325 million expansion to its Henry B. González Convention Center in January, marking the city’s largest capital improvement project and increasing the center’s footprint to 1.6 million sf. Prevue spoke with Casandra Matej, executive director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, about the project and what it means for the future of San Antonio meetings.
Prevue: How has the new convention center expansion helped attract groups to San Antonio?
Matej: Having a strong convention infrastructure combined with a unique visitor experience helps sets San Antonio apart. Now, with the $325 million transformation of our Henry B. González Convention Center, we are able to offer an even more flexible and cutting-edge facility. Its 1.6 million sf allows us to grow with and maintain current meetings while also attracting new, larger meetings. It also helps us to host more meetings simultaneously. This has enabled us to secure 34 groups that we could not have accommodated prior to the transformation.
What about the design makes it stand out compared to other convention centers in Texas?
Throughout the design process, we made sure to incorporate client feedback to supersede meeting needs for the next generation. The center’s architecture is indicative of San Antonio’s personality with a gorgeous limestone exterior, enhanced by public art installations. The layout is also flexible and easy to navigate.
How does the new convention center represent the San Antonio culture?
Matej: The history of the center along with its River Walk location has made it a part of San Antonio’s story and culture for decades. The transformation was a fantastic way to capitalize on both. Originally built in 1968 when San Antonio hosted the World’s Fair, the Henry B. González Convention Center has welcomed people to San Antonio for almost 50 years. The new addition was built to the east, which is allowing for the demolition of the original 1968 structure to the west. In place of the original structure will be an expansion of neighboring Hemisfair Park, providing enhanced opportunities for outdoor events.
Being on the River Walk in historic downtown places the center within walking distance to so much of what drives meeting attendance in San Antonio: historic sites including the Alamo, local restaurants, museums, theaters, shops and thousands of hotel rooms. Walls of windows bring in tremendous downtown views including the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas. This offers a distinct sense of place, setting the center apart as one that forges with the atmosphere beyond its borders.