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Expansion of the convention centre
Dec 11, 2009

In 2008, WinnipegREALTORS® heard Klaus Lahr, general manager of the Winnipeg Convention Centre, explain the detailed consultant study outlining a need to expand the centre that will be 35 years old in 2010. 

Over the years, other Canadian cities have surpassed Winnipeg’s facility. “It’s not just about losing new business, it’s

losing existing business,” said one convention-goer.

WinnipegREALTORS® supports the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s expansion plans and believes it is about “expanding for success.” The land immediately to the south of the existing convention centre does present an opportunity for expansion. The expansion would double the meeting and exhibition space and greatly enhance available parking.

We need to capitalize on the momentum that is being generated from building the world-class human rights museum, as well as other downtown renewal efforts, such as the MTS Centre and the new Manitoba Hydro building. Doing nothing is not an option.

The following article was provided by the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Expanding for success

When the Winnipeg Convention Centre opened in 1975, it was the first free-standing purpose-built convention centre in Canada. It soon became a major force in attracting an incredible array of national and international conferences, bringing thousands of delegates to our city and driving the economy of hotels, restaurants, taxis, attractions, retail outlets and more. Without expanding the centre, this facility will no longer be the driver, but a passenger moving to the back of the bus.

Although the centre closed out 2008 with the largest number of events ever in its 34 years of operation, and it is looking and operating better than ever with renovations, improvements and a commitment to being a “greener” facility, it is losing business — not only new business but existing business. 

“We can no longer compete with other Canadian cities with their expanded or brand new facilities,” explained convention centre president and CEO, Klaus Lahr. “We cannot house more than one large conference at a time and the demand for larger trade show space is now, more than ever, an important factor in selecting convention destinations as trade shows help to underwrite significant convention costs for delegates.”

Lahr also noted that consumer shows, which also provide significant economic benefit to our city, utilize most of the major space in the convention centre from January to March. As such, the centre is unable to book conferences during those months, due to current space limitations.

Without expansion, an annual loss of 51 direct person years of employment is projected, along with a decrease of up to $6 million in direct economic benefits.

Expansion could yield an annual increase of 109 direct person years of employment, plus an annual increase of $13 million in economic benefits.

The opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights extends the centre’s potential for attracting major conferences far beyond its current boundaries. Organizations that would never have considered Winnipeg as a potential meeting place would certainly be interested in our city with this unique world-class attraction, providing we have the facility to

accommodate their requirements. 

To meet the needs of the new realities in the convention business, an expansion to the existing facility is proposed in the open lot directly to the south of the current building. Rentable space would be increased by 146,881 square feet, increasing the overall square footage of the current facility by 467,193 square feet.

As the number of large events has eroded over the last few years, the centre has looked to smaller types of events to fill the gaps left by organizations opting for larger and more flexible space in other parts of the country. Smaller events, however, tend not to be as profitable and attract fewer out-of-town visitors. Those who do travel here spend less time and money while in the city, directly impacting the local economy in terms of the hotel, restaurant and other related industries.

Further development in the downtown would be immediate with the

expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre with a 250-room hotel on top of the centre as part of the plan.

The construction of the convention centre in 1975 acted as a catalyst for

further development in an area of the city that had decayed and been largely abandoned. Restaurants, hotels, offices, and other facilities were all developed beside or close to the then new centre. Over 30 years later, there is every reason to believe that the expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre can once again provide the impetus for private and public investment in downtown Winnipeg.