London Free Press: London Convention Centre: Renovations could grow convention record

London Free Press Article

By Norman De Bono, The London Free Press

The London Convention Centre’s new look is paying off.

The York Street meeting space enjoyed a record November in sales — its best month ever — following an extensive $5-million renovation completed in August.

“Our new space is more flexible. We had more options to dovetail smaller meetings in at the last minute. We had more bookings as we had more open space,” said Darrin Pollard, director of business development at the convention centre.

The centre hosted more than 18 events, attracting more than 22,000 participants, Pollard said.

Though the centre’s new look is helping, the larger meetings were booked prior to the renovation work, he said. “It is too early for it to have a huge impact.”

November got off to a big start with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference, which brought in 900 participants.

“It was a collaborative effort. Many agencies in the community worked hard on bringing it here,” Pollard said.

“But the whole month was busy, a real hybrid of events: consumer shows, large galas and major conferences.”

Highlights for the month included a Mission Services of London banquet, the Best Defence Conference, Forest City Comicon and the Robarts Research Institute’s Leaders in Innovation Dinner.

The economic impact of November’s events to the local economy topped $3.3 million, said Lori Da Silva, chief executive of the convention centre.

“Our strategic plan focuses on bringing conventions to London. We also assist local and regional organizations achieve their charitable . . . goals by hosting large-scale galas and special events.”

The convention centre hosts up to 400 events a year and contributes up to $20 million to the local economy. This year is looking like the centre’s best year ever, with a 15 per cent bump over 2015, Pollard said. “We are very happy we were able to accomplish this in a renovation year.”

The renovation increased meeting space by 3,000 square feet. Smaller breakout rooms for 20 to 30 people were created, offering a new revenue source.

The centre will add more space after it tears down two adjacent buildings at 340 Wellington St. and 280 York St.