A New Day in St. Louis
Leaders unite to celebrate AC Next Gen groundbreaking
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2022
Lents Mazur & Associates
ST. LOUIS – Regional leaders came together Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the America’s Center expansion project known as AC Next Gen.
The groundbreaking kicks off the much-awaited expansion and facelift for the America’s Center Convention Complex in downtown St. Louis, which is now 45 years old. Speakers at the groundbreaking discussed the first phase of the multi-million dollar project including a 72,000 SF exhibit space that includes windows for natural daylight, enhancement of the Washington Avenue entrance, more than twice the number of loading docks for access to the exhibit space, a food farm and other improvements to meet the needs of today’s events.
In response to the changing and evolving needs of meeting planners, the design for the AC Next Gen project was guided by The Explore St. Louis National Customer Advisory Board (NCAB), a select group of meeting and event professionals to advise on industry-related topics. This board was instrumental in providing feedback, which resulted in innovative enhancements to the overall project.
Speakers included Tishaura Jones, Mayor of St. Louis; Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive; Darlene Green, Comptroller of the City of St. Louis; Jack Coatar, Alderman of the 7th Ward; and Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis.
“This expansion to America’s Center will help secure its place as a beacon for travel and tourism in the region, contributing to jobs and our economy,” said Tishaura Jones, Mayor of St. Louis City.
“Our geographic location makes St. Louis a perfect place to host national events,” said Dr. Sam Page, County Executive of St. Louis County. “AC Next Gen ensures we’ll have the infrastructure to support those who want to gather here.”
“The last few years have been very challenging for the industry, and that makes today even more important: we are back, and building something new that will benefit St. Louis and event planners for many years to come,” said Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis. “No longer will St. Louis be the best-known secret in hosting national events and attracting visitors from throughout the world.”
Comptroller Darlene Green added, “With the economy rebounding, that means over 90,000 jobs depend on our capability to bring events to our hometown. This expansion solidifies us as a competitor in the national market.”
The AC Next Gen Project will be funded by existing hotel and restaurant tax payments and expects to increase direct spending to $394 million, 491,000 in room-night demand and to support 4,950 FTE jobs post-expansion. In addition to the $105 million in bonds from the city, St. Louis County has also approved an equal contribution to the project. There will be no new tax on local residents, as this hotel tax is only paid by people staying in area hotels.
The total cost of building the AC Next Gen Project is estimated to be $210 million and currently includes the following elements, as well as several other improvements.
- A new 72,000 SF exhibit hall expanding the existing hall 4 westward onto the block between MLK, Cole St., 9th, and 10th. This will replace the old unattractive C-9 parking garage. The new hall roof has a 210-foot clear span for ultimate exhibit flexibility and includes new bathroom facilities. It features natural daylight from windows located above the level that exhibit booths occupy. Natural daylight in an exhibit hall makes it much more inviting for visitors and is a significant new trend in the industry.
- The new hall is set back from 10th street approximately 75 feet to provide for a food farm that will supply fresh produce for the center’s kitchen. Any surplus will be donated to the community.
- The new hall is accessed from the 9th street concourse and a new MLK lobby entrance, infused with daylight, featuring tall ceilings and networking lounges pictured here.
- Last, and certainly not least, is a new expanded, enclosed loading dock directly serving the three north exhibit halls. It more than doubles the existing loading dock capacity. It is configured so that trucks no longer need to back into the dock blocking Cole street as they do today. Cole street will be reduced to 3 lanes, more conducive to the residential neighborhood to the north, and is provided with a new sidewalk and landscaping where there was none on the south side of the street. The fully opaque façade screens the docks and trash dumpsters from view and features an iconic “Super St. Louis” sign to help brand the center and provide that instagramable image that tourist venues aspire to have.
About Explore St. Louis
Explore St. Louis is the driving force behind St. Louis’ $5.9 billion convention and tourism industry, the official destination marketing organization of St. Louis City and County and operator of the America’s Center Convention Complex.