Convention Center a bonanza for Minneapolis

Minnesota State Roundup

Published January 1, 1992  | January 1992 issue

During its first year of operation, the Minneapolis' convention center was the scene of 700 events that drew about 1.25 million people, which translates into an estimated $381 million for the Minneapolis economy in 1991, according to General Manager Gary Dorrian.

Dorrian says 125 events are already booked through the year 2000, including national conventions of the Lions Clubs in 1993 for about 35,000 people and Alcoholics Anonymous in 2000 that is expected to draw 65,000 to 75,000.

Dorrian says 90 percent of the bookings are by groups that have not met previously in Minneapolis, because the new center can accommodate larger groups than the old building.

The Convention Center's economic impact on the community is visible in a number of ways. "There's been a nice implosion at the south end of downtown," Dorrian says of the increased business to restaurants and other small businesses in the neighborhood. And a new Hilton Hotel is under construction that will employ 800 to 1,000 people when it opens in 1993.

In addition, the Convention Center has created new jobs directly. Center staff has increased from 47 to 121 full-time equivalents, and other support businesses, such as security and food services have had to double their personnel to handle larger meetings.

While some critics say the new center takes business away from St. Paul, Dorrian answers that the size of the Minneapolis center puts it in a different market from similar facilities in St. Paul. "We brought business to St. Paul when we closed the old center—and some of those groups are returning there," he says. In addition, large conventions like the Lions Clubs will need hotel rooms in St. Paul and Bloomington, in addition to Minneapolis.

"We're trying to act as an economic engine to bring visitors to the area." That engine will pull a likely profitable train in early 1992, when professional football's Super Bowl comes to the Metrodome at the end of January, and college basketball's NCAA Final Four tournament arrives in spring. Many associated meetings and events will be held at the Convention Center.

Dorrian says that without the new convention facility it would be unlikely that either of those groups would have chosen Minneapolis as the site for their events.

Kathy Cobb