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AB has a long history of constructing unique convention centers. From controversial architecture to national icons, we’re revisiting the builds and how they’re continuing to operate today.
Conventions and showcases are an essential feature of cultural, educational, and professional groups. Coming together by the hundreds or even thousands, attendees bond over their shared passions. Today, conventions are such a key part of our culture that you can find an event for almost anything, whether it’s video games, cars, or career development. Every year, thousands of conventions occur all over the world, highlighting new and interesting things for fanbases and followers to enjoy. However, these large gatherings can’t occur without a venue capable of accommodating the accompanying crowds, booths, lectures, entertainment, and other attractions.
This is where the ubiquitous convention center comes in, more than just a cavernous, ever-shifting room, these structures are unique tributes to architecture and the cities that host them. Just as conventions themselves are ever growing and changing, convention centers are continuing to develop and morph from their initial construction to their function today. American Bridge Company (AB) has constructed more than 30 convention centers across the world, and AB’s Marketing Intern, Gabrielle Henderson, is looking back at just a few of them here.
Los Angeles Convention Center | Los Angeles, CA
AB constructed both the original LA Convention Center (LACC) as well as the expansion of it 20 years later that helped to make it LA’s largest construction project by area at the time. The original convention center contained a 560’ x 601’ exhibit hall with a second, 560’ x 180’, story dedicated to meeting rooms. AB completed work in December of 1970 for just under $2 Million, or approximately $13 million in today’s value.
Original LACC Construction Completion Date: December 1970
Original LACC Value (in 2021): $12.8M
LACC Addition Construction Completion Date: February 1992
LACC Addition Value (in 2021): $60.2M
Two decades later, AB was tasked with furnishing and erecting all structural steel to expand the LACC by 810,000SF. The expansion, finished in 1992, was completed in two phases and cemented the LACC’s status as an iconic part of local culture. The new portion included exhibit halls, meeting rooms, and a 160′ high pipe steel space frame lobby. After the expansion was completed, the LACC covered an impressive 58 acres of land, with a 560,000SF exhibit hall, 1,750SF of exhibit booths, 260,000SF of concourse halls, dozens of meeting rooms and truck docks, and over 6,000 parking spaces. More than 16,000 tons of steel were used on this project for the long, deep trusses, star columns, and the majestic space frame lobby. The LACC has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in LA and is a prevalent part of culture today.
These days, the LACC hosts more than 350 events annually including sporting events, business conferences, and some of the most well-attended pop culture conventions. One of the most well-known gatherings is “Comicon,” the city’s largest gaming, comic, sci-fi, horror, and pop culture gathering. This convention hosts thousands of booths for art and handmade items, comic-illustrator presentations and cover signing events, movie and tv series premieres, and fan meet and greets. LACC is the perfect venue for this event, not only because its massive area helps to accommodate the huge crowds of attendees but also because it is in the heart of where most of these industries are centered.
The LACC also has one very unique and Hollywood-specific trait: it is a popular location for movie and TV scene filming. The LACC features an entire page on their website dedicated to renting different areas, both indoors and outside, for filming and has been featured in series like Greys Anatomy, West World, Parks and Rec, and even the Transformers movies, among many others. Many of the filming locations they offer are spaces that AB constructed, so we guess you could say that our work has really made it big!
Dallas World Trade Center | Dallas, TX
Meanwhile, as work on the sunny coast of California was finishing up, AB’s next convention center project in Dallas, Texas had just begun. AB began work on the massive Dallas World Trade Center (DTWC) nearly 50 years ago, finishing in October of 1973, ahead of the grand opening in 1974.
Construction Completion Date: October 1973
Project Value (in 2021): $23M
AB’s scope included constructing a seven-story exhibit/exposition center containing a six-story center atrium, with a 525’ by 385’ footprint. The project was hugely popular with the citizens of Dallas and attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists. The project rang in at nearly $4 million, which is roughly $23 million today.
When first built, the blocky concrete form dwarfed many structures in the Dallas area and only became more imposing with its expansion years later. The building still stands today and has grown to be even more influential in Dallas culture as well as an important part of their city’s tourism. It has even become a hot topic of debate amongst locals and architectural connoisseurs, who cannot agree on the aesthetics of the structure.
Today, the DWTC is the most prominent part of a collection of buildings known as “the Dallas Market Center.” In 1979 the DWTC was expanded from seven to 15 floors, totaling 3.1 million SF and making it one of the largest buildings in the area. The Dallas Market is one of the largest wholesale merchandise marts in the world featuring hundreds of fashion and home stores as well as regularly-changing markets and trade shows. The temporary exhibits are one of the main attractions with dozens of events every year taking over three entire floors of the building. As the DWTC grew, it also became one of the biggest controversies among architects online.
The DWTC has come under fire since its expansion for the design features and colors it presents on the outside. While the interior has been praised for its beauty and grand views into the atrium, the outside resembles an upside-down chocolate cake: shiny and brown, with tiers that expand as you move upward. Debate rages online over what it would take to “fix” the DWTC. Some are convinced a change of color would be enough, while others argue it needs a complete overhaul, even down to the monochromatic stock-font logo. Whether its minor improvements, a complete redo, or leaving it as is, the Dallas World Trade Center continues to attract events – and debate.
San Diego Convention Center | San Diego, CA
Five years after crews wrapped up the DTWC, AB made our way back to California for one of our most unique convention center projects yet. AB worked on the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) expansion project for nearly two years as the prime structural steel contractor.
Construction Start Date: October 1998
Construction Completion Date: June 2000
Project Value (in 2021): $50M
AB was responsible for fabricating and erecting nearly 18,000 tons of steel work including beams, columns, and trusses. The structural steel frame measures 1,200’ x 500’ and is three stories tall with the longest free span trusses measuring in at 220’ and weighing 150 tons each. The steel erection was performed entirely by AB forces. The project added 864,000SF to the existing center, which included 277,000SF dedicated to exhibit halls, 60,000SF for meeting rooms, a 41,000SF ballroom, 200,000SF of lobby space, and 280,000SF dedicated to their new service center. This project was completed for just over $31 million and is a vital Part of San Diego’s tourism.
Almost 25 years later, the waterfront SDCC is a beautiful part of San Diego’s architecture and a featured attraction to the city for tourists every year. It plays host to many popular events such as national dance competitions, massive trade and art shows, and even the American Kennel Club’s “Meet the Breed” convention. This event is a public educational showcase introducing people to a variety of dog breeds and helping families select the right fit for their household. This is extremely important because it reduces the chances of owners selecting the wrong breed for their homes and having to turn dogs over to shelters.
The SDCC also does its best to give back to its surrounding community and has become a vital part of the city for more than just events. With San Diego’s economy centering almost entirely around entertainment and tourism, the Covid-19 pandemic took a devastating toll. To help get the city back on its feet, the SDCC offered up its kitchen space to prepare over 500,000 meals for those in need. They even sourced ingredients from local farmers to help keep them afloat – and the citizens well-fed!
Puerto Rico Convention Center | San Juan, PR
Down the line and a few thousand miles southeast, AB was busy on the Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC) from 2002 to late 2004. AB’s scope of work included fabricating and erecting approximately 11,000 tons of structural steel, metal deck, and stairs consisting of beams, columns, and long truss spans.
Construction Start Date: October 2002
Construction Completion Date: August 2004
Project Value: $44M
AB also worked on the two ‘wave’ shaped roofs which are made from large diameter pipes and were supported by AB-designed falsework during erection. These pipe arches span as much as 600’ and are made from welded 60” x 1-5/8” pipe sections. Besides providing the essential structural support, they are an architectural piece of art and are an iconic symbol to the area. The PRCC is 734’ wide by 550’ long and 120’ tall, and covers 600,000SF of land. It holds 150,000SF of exhibit halls, 40,000SF of ballroom space, and 40,000SF of meeting rooms. This project was completed for a little under $44 million and has become an integral part of Puerto Rico tourism.
Today, the PRCC is the largest such facility in the Caribbean and the most technologically advanced throughout Latin America. This spacious, open-concept center features stunning views of the area and is home to some of the Caribbean’s biggest events every year. Boasting everything from sports games to music concerts, they’ve grown to be a central part of Puerto Rico’s event and entertainment industry.
One of the most unique events they have on their calendar is the “Tuner Evolution Car Show”, a showcase for car enthusiasts, both novice and professional alike. This event features booths with the latest automotive technology, parts and merchandise sellers, and live demonstrations of performance vehicles. Tuner Evolution Is one of the most well-known event hosts in the online car community and the conventions they run are always a massive hit with their fans. The PRCC, with its unique water-view space, hosts a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and is a fitting representation of Puerto Rico’s diverse culture.
Washington State Convention Center Addition | Seattle, WA
Fast-forwarding 15 years, AB is bringing our extensive vertical construction experience to another iconic project. Work on the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition began in downtown Seattle in March of 2018. This project involves the addition of nearly 1.59 million SF to the existing Seattle Convention Center.
Construction Start Date: March 2018
Construction Completion Date: 2021 (est.)
Project Value: $81.4M
AB is tasked with supplying and erecting over 22,000 tons of structural steel and 1.3 million square feet of metal decking, the majority of which is going into a new 14-story structure. In June 2021, the project celebrated their hard work and successes with a traditional “topping out” ceremony, signaling the installation of the upper most beam and the build reaching its full height. There is still more work to go but through some of the most unprecedented challenges, AB and the project team have continued to make significant progress. Throughout the rest of 2021, AB teams will be finishing out the WSCC steel erection, stairs, elevators, and other small miscellaneous features.
The WSCC Addition, known as the Summit Building, is expected to open in mid-2022. As the country continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the WSCC will play host to a variety of career opportunities for locals struggling to find work. Partnerships with organizations like What’s Next Washington (WNW), which helps match employers with workers who have a conviction history, will play out in the new building. The WSCC construction has played a major role in the Seattle community, from creating 6,000 construction jobs and 900 apprenticeships for locals, to using the finished expansion to stimulate the economy through thousands of jobs and hundreds of conventions. The WSCC Expansion will be an amazing addition to Seattle’s culture and host hundreds of exciting events in the years to come.