Thursday, August 24, 2000

Convention center inks 500th contract

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SHARONVILLE — The Sharonville Convention Center passed a milestone this week with the signing of its 500th contract. A Lexington company has agreed to bring 1,500 conventioneers here in January.

        The center on Chester Road “has welcomed (an average) of 220,000 visi tors a year, a total of more than 1.4 million visitors since it opened in 1994,” said Will Greiner, the executive director. “Last year, we brought about $15 million into Sharon ville's (economy), and I expect it will be about the same again this year,” he said.

        The center provides 27,500 square feet of space and can hold about 2,000 visitors. The 500th contract is with Nu-Creations, a computer consulting firm.

        The city's officials authorized the center in 1992 and earmarked $7 million for launching it, of which $6.5 million was used to construct the building. The center, in the heart of the city's hotel and restaurant strip, sits parallel to Interstate 75 north of the Sharon Road interchange.

        “Our challenge has been to bring visitors into our town who will spend in the community — fill our hotel rooms, dine in our restau rants, support our shops and businesses. But we also have to make money. We cannot lose money,” Mr. Greiner said.

        City Council required that after its start-up the convention center be self-supporting. “Most convention centers (of the 1,050 in the United States and Canada) lose money. Only about 12 percent of them operate in the black, and we are in that 12 percent,” Mr. Greiner said.

        The center has about $2 million in reserves and uses its profits to maintain and improve the center. New wallpaper and lobby carpeting are being installed this year, and new carpeting in meeting rooms is planned in 2001, Mr. Greiner said. The center would like to build a parking garage eventually.

        A new Hospitality Group Sales office opened this year across Chester Road from the center and is funded in the center's budget. It serves as a tourism office for the city and promotes the community for small conventions or events.

        “The convention center has exceeded all of our expectations,” said Sharonville Safety-Service Director Al Ledbetter. “It has obviously become a plum for our community, and we are extremely pleased at what Will and his staff have done to promote and provide economic benefits to Sharonville.”

        Mr. Greiner said the center also received recognition last year in Expo Magazine, an industry publication. The center was chosen as one of the top 10 centers in North America and was recognized specifically for its outstanding service to visitors. “That's quite an honor for a facility of our (small) size,” he said.

        Mr. Greiner said the center attracts a wide range of events, from corporate meetings to public attractions to other functions such as wedding receptions.

        “We get a lot of corporate events,” he said. Cincinnati Insurance, Cincinnati Bell, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Lenscrafters, Kroger and many other companies hold large corporate functions at the center, he said.

        The center also is home to the annual Greater Cincinnati Antiques Show to benefit Children's Hospital Medical Center, which is rated as one of the top three antiques shows in the country. The center also is host to the annual Folk Arts and Crafts Show.


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