After unveiling a $56 million renovation of the Moscone Convention Center in 2012, San Francisco is already making changes, creating more space for meeting and event groups. The 2-year renovation project of the North and South buildings rounded out the total meeting space at 1.2 million sf, but there are already plans to create bountiful infrastructure across the city within the next 25 years.
“The recent renovations at Moscone North and South are exciting, but they don’t address San Francisco’s need for more convention and meeting space to remain competitive with cities around the world,” says Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “This is one of the most utilized convention centers in the nation and many of our convention clients are simply outgrowing it.”
Ten groups broke attendance records between 2012 and 2013, creating high demand for more meeting and convention space. We spoke with John Reyes, EVP/chief sales officer of San Francisco Travel to learn more about the future for San Francisco.
Prevue: What was the goal behind the 2012 renovation?
John Reyes: The main motivation was really through our customers. We have a citywide customer advisory council made-up of meeting planners and other customers who we meet with to discuss the convention center as a product. They voiced a great demand for a renovation and expansion of the Moscone Center. There was a huge interest in booking the center and making the building more efficient for themselves and attendees. We tried our best to listen and act on that to be more competitive and relevant. There was a huge demand for it.
Prevue: What will the expansion include?
Reyes: The number one desire from meeting planners is more meeting space, so we are adding 100,000 sf of meeting space to the convention center. We are also going to address the lobby areas and adding additional ballroom. The renovation is about taking some of our existing group business and growing with them as they continue to get larger. The heart and soul of this renovation is about gaining new customers who may not be able to book San Francisco at this time because we currently do not have the space to accommodate them and to stay relevant with our current business. The expansion will break ground in December 2014 and wrap in 2018, estimating a total cost of $500 million.
Prevue: What makes the convention center so successful?
Reyes: The convention center is a truly urban space. Step outside our doors and you are among a huge, walkable district, full of entertainment. Attendees love coming here because of what the city has to offer in addition to meeting space. We are filled with plenty of things to do, quality hotels and an urban setting with record breaking attendance. Our annual meetings are growing, adding more attendees, which is something that gets us very excited. Finally, there’s a huge growth of about 15-20% in visitors that are coming in from oversees. We are a world city and we are seeing a very strong attraction by groups from South America, Asia and Europe because we are easily accessible.
Prevue: How do you use your location to your advantage?
Reyes: From an organized standpoint, we are really fortunate that the Yerba Buena Theater is so close to us. It’s a famous theater where Steve Jobs launched all of his Apple products. It’s venues like that surrounding the convention center that attract groups. Moscone Convention Center is located south of Market, a new technology hub with Twitter, Google, Yelp and other cutting edge technology companies nearby, bringing a lot of techie, trendy places for meetings, dining and entertainment. It’s all about choice. You can bump into something of interest and diversity in all of the different neighborhoods like Chinatown, Union Square, Little Italy and Fisherman’s Warf. I would recommend going to the Metreon, a popular spot for dining and shopping. There’s a great function space on the top floor of that area. Also a wine bar called the Press Room and several museums in the area.
Prevue: What notable hotels are in the area?
Reyes: The larger, big brand hotels are The Westin San Francisco Market Street, The InterContinental San Francisco, The Four Seasons, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, The Hilton Union Square, the W Hotel San Francisco and Kimpton. They are all easily accessible from the convention center.