Orange County Convention Center
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|Orange County Convention Center|
South Concourse Building
9800 International Drive
9899 International Drive
9400 Universal Boulevard
|Owner||Orange County Government|
|Opened||February 27, 1983|
|• Total space||7,000,000 sq ft (650,000 m2)|
|• Exhibit hall floor||2,100,000 sq ft (200,000 m2)|
The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is the primary public convention center for the Central Florida region. The center currently ranks as the second largest convention center in the United States (the biggest is McCormick Place in Chicago). The OCCC offers 7,000,000 sq ft (650,000 m2) of total space, 2,100,000 sq ft (200,000 m2) of which is exhibit space. The large complex is located on the south end of International Drive, a major tourist area in Orlando, Florida. Solar panels on the roof of the South Concourse provide 1 MW of power. On April 18, 2012, the American Institute of Architects's Florida Chapter placed the building on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.
Originally the Orange County Convention and Civic Center (OCCCC), it was an idea born out of a 1977 law passed by Florida's State Legislature that permits counties to collect a "Tourist Development Tax" on top of regular sales tax on hotel room stays, with the approval of the county's voters, for state-approved purposes. In April 1978 in a special election, the voters of Orange County approved a 2% Tourist Development Tax (the limit set by the state) for the purpose of building a Convention and Civic Center. That August, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved a location for the OCCCC in Orlando Central Park, on International Drive, and drew up plans for a 325,000 sq ft (30,200 m2) gross area facility. In 1979, Orlando Central Park and the BCC came to a deal whereby the Orlando Central Park would donate land for the initial facility, and give the county an option on 45 acres (18 ha) additional for future expansion. Orlando Central Park agreed to commit adjacent lands for hotel and tourist development, with an incentive of one cent per taxed dollar of the TDT each year for 30 years.
Phase I was completed on February 25, 1983 at a cost of $54 million. The Boston Pops Orchestra played at the Grand Opening on February 26, 1983 and 14,000 people attended the Open House on February 27, 1983.
In June 1984, the BCC exercised its 45-acre (18 ha) option for $2 million and began planning Phase II. The TDT was raised to 3% by a State Law in 1986, and groundbreaking occurred in February 1987 on Phase II. It was completed in January 1989, adding 150,000 sq ft (14,000 m2) of exhibition space to increase it to 344,790 sq ft (32,032 m2) of total exhibition space, and adding 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) of meeting and support space.
That very month, an additional 1% was permitted for the TDT, increasing it to 4% The BCC approved an additional three phases to the OCCCC (Phases IIA, III and IV), and improvements to the Citrus Bowl, its first non-Convention Center TDT project.
Phase IIA, completed in December 1990, added 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) more support space, used largely for office space and registration. The next month, planning for Phase III was begun. By December 1992, "Civic" was dropped from the name, and the area became the Orange County Convention Center.
Phase III was completed in January 1996, adding 383,400 sq ft (35,620 m2) of exhibition space, at a cost of $219.5 million. Phase IV followed that August at a cost of $198.7 million, adding another 367,200 sq ft (34,110 m2) of exhibition space and about 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) more meeting space. A retrofit of Phase I, completed in December 1997 at a cost of $32 million, opened up 8,200 sq ft (760 m2) more. By 1998, the OCCC had 1,103,538 sq ft (102,522.0 m2) of exhibition space over a total building space of over 4 million ft². Additionally LMG, Inc became the onsite provider for audiovisual services.
In June 1998, the BCC got a fifth cent approved for the TDT, partly for a grand Phase V, which would add a total of 3 million ft² of space to the OCCC. That December, they paid Universal Orlando Resort $69 million for 239 acres (97 ha) of land across International Drive from the original OCCC. The Martinez Convention Center Commission, named after then-Orange County chairman Mel Martinez, was created to oversee planning and construction of Phase V.
Ground broke on Phase V in August 2000 after a large convention organizer, Reed Exhibitions, agreed to move 42 conventions to Orlando into the new phase. It opened one month ahead of schedule in September 2003. Today, the first four phases are referred to as the "West Building", and Phase V is referred to as the "North/South Building", as it is divided into North and South Exhibition Halls which can be joined to form one large exhibition space or subdivided into six different halls (North A1, North A2, North B, South A1, South A2, South B). The North/South Building has over 1,100,000 sq ft (100,000 m2) of exhibition space. Around the same time, an elevated walkway was built over International Drive connecting the two buildings.
In 2004, OCCC acted as a staging area for relief operations following Hurricane Charley, and Frances and Jeanne thereafter. Disruptions to convention operations were minimal, and a feared reduction of convention booking did not occur afterward.
In 2009, the Hilton Orlando, a 1400 room luxury hotel, opened which adjoins with the South Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center's North/South Building via an elevated, covered pedestrian walkway. Expansions to the Peabody have been finished and connect directly to the Orange County Convention Center via the elevated pedestrian walkway as well. The elevated walkway currently connects the North, South and West concourses over International Drive to each other and the Hilton Orlando. Rosen Plaza and Rosen Centre, 800 and 1,334 guest rooms respectively, straddle the West Concourse and also have elevated, covered pedestrian bridges connecting them both to the OCCC as part of Orange County's master plan to improve connectivity and safety for convention-goers.
The OCCC consists of two buildings joined together by a covered pedestrian sky-bridge. The West Building, opening in four phases from February 27, 1983 (with an initial 150,000 sq ft (14,000 m2) of exhibition space) and 1996, is located on the south side of International Drive. The North/South Building, located on the north side of International Drive, was completed in 2003.
In its entirety, the OCCC features:
- 2,100,000 square feet (200,000 m2) of exhibition space
- Two 92,000-square-foot (8,500 m2) general assembly areas
- 74 meeting rooms/235 breakouts
- The 2,643-seat Chapin Theater
- A 200-seat Lecture Hall
- The 62,000-square-foot (5,800 m2) multi-purpose Valencia Room
- Three full-service restaurants/8 food courts
- Three business centers
- In-house electric, plumbing, rigging and technical services, plus wireless mobility throughout the complex
- On-site parking for 6,227
- Three covered loading docks/173 truck bays
On average, the OCCC hosts approximately one million delegates annually and provides a $1.9 billion total economic impact annually to the Central Florida economy, all at no cost to Orange County Citizens (OCCC is funded by a "tourist development tax" collected on hotel guests).