Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune expressed his intent to expand the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati on Tuesday. Portune said that convention center expansion will be a major centerpiece for the county to address this year.

Portune made these comments at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Annual Meeting, held at Memorial Hall.

“As president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, I call on my fellow commissioners to join me in a commitment to expanding the convention center in a way that makes sense for the county, the city and the taxpayers of each,” Portune said.

“We are a major metropolitan region. We must do bold things. We must do big things. And we must do important things,” Portune added. “We need to get this done, and we need to get it done soon.”

Although the Duke Energy Convention Center was renovated in 2006, the last significant expansion of exhibition space was nearly 30 years ago. Compared to the destinations Cincinnati typically competes against for conventions and group meetings, the Duke Energy Convention Center has the smallest amount of contiguous event space.


“Some groups that were Cincinnati mainstays have outgrown the Duke Energy Convention Center,” said Jim McGraw, who was elected chairman of the CVB’s Board of Directors earlier in the meeting. “A larger center would allow our region to retain more meetings and bid on larger meetings, conventions and trade shows we cannot host today.”
Convention center expansion would also allow Cincinnati USA to host multiple events at the same time.
“Many of our competitors are able to hold two or three simultaneous events,” said Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. 
Convention District Needs
The CVB engaged several of the nation’s most respected travel and convention research firms to determine how to improve the region’s downtown convention district. These organizations addressed how to expand the convention center’s exhibition and meeting space.
The consultants also studied how a new, first class headquarter hotel would improve the convention district and impact the region’s economy.
Based on the findings, the Duke Energy Convention Center lacks nearly 100,000 square feet in exhibition space, compared to the destination’s competitive set. It was strongly recommended that any expansion be contiguous to the current exhibition space in order to provide the flexibility that meeting planners demand.
The University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center estimates that convention center expansion, coupled with the construction of a new headquarter hotel, would result in:
  • More than 700 new permanent jobs within the City of Cincinnati
  • More than $7.5 million in new annual tax revenue
  • $26.4 million in new direct visitor spending annually
CVB Recaps 2016
During the Annual Meeting, the CVB recapped a successful 2016. Themed “#LoveThisPlace,” the meeting highlighted the impact and recent growth of the hospitality industry in Cincinnati USA, largely driven by the CVB’s role as the region’s destination marketing and management organization.
Discussion centered around the CVB’s major initiatives like Vibe Cincinnati and the Institute for Hospitality Leadership, along with the CVB’s strong convention sales results and the impact of travel and tourism as an economic driver in Cincinnati.
In 2016, the CVB continued to book large and small meetings, conventions, tradeshows and group bus tours to Cincinnati USA. When added together, this mix of visitors had a significant impact on the region. Last year, the CVB booked 243,717 future hotel room nights, which will result in approximately $72.6 million in direct spending. The CVB also generated leads for more than one million tentative room nights, for the third year in a row.
Future events booked in 2016 include the Educational Testing Service (21,013 contract room nights), the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference (7,010 contract room nights) and the American Correctional Association Congress of Correction (3,709 contract room nights), to name a few. Of the meetings booked in 2016, 43 percent were repeat business, a key strategy and result of excellent customer service on behalf of the CVB and its partners.
Cincinnati USA hosted several prominent conventions in 2016, including the NAACP Annual Convention, the Church of God in Christ AIM Convention and the American Legion National Convention. These events, among others, contributed to a 6.1 percent growth in hotel revenue in Hamilton County over the last year.
“We have had 10 years of steady growth in the hospitality and tourism industry,” said Edgar Smith, Jr., outgoing chairman of the CVB’s Board of Directors. “The visitor economy has helped fuel the explosive transformation of our downtown core.”
Making an Economic Impact
The investments the Cincinnati USA CVB and local community have made over the past decade have changed the energy and culture of the Cincinnati USA region. The tourism industry continues to play a large role in driving the local economy forward, bringing 24 million people and $4.4 billion to Cincinnati USA annually.
Locally, more than 74,000 jobs are supported by new money that comes in as a result of visitors, with spending largely directed toward hotels, restaurants, shopping, transportation, entertainment and more. One in 14 jobs in Cincinnati is in the tourism and hospitality industry, more than in the financial, construction or information technology sectors.
“Our destination has achieved tremendous momentum and velocity. Demand for Cincinnati has never been higher,” said Lincoln. “If we address the fundamental convention district infrastructure issues, Cincinnati will be the hottest city in America.”
The CVB’s Annual Report, which was released at Tuesday’s meeting, can be found here.
About the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is an aggressive sales, marketing and service organization shows primary responsibility is to positively impact Hamilton County’s and the City of Cincinnati’s economy through convention, trade show and visitor expenditures. The travel and tourism industry traditionally has been a $4.4 billion industry in Cincinnati USA, employing 74,000 people in a variety of fields and bringing 24.1 million visitors to the region annually. Visit www.cincyusa.com for more.