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Opening celebrations for $2 billion Seattle Convention Center

The project doubled the capacity of the Seattle Convention Center by adding 573,770 square feet of event space.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Convention Center, a nearly $2 billion project in the heart of downtown Seattle that has been years in the making, is set for its opening celebrations on Wednesday. 

The project doubled the capacity of the Seattle Convention Center, formerly known as the Washington State Convention Center, by adding 573,770 square feet of event space. There are now 62 meeting rooms, a 58,000-square-foot column-free and divisible ballroom featuring 3,900 suspended planks of reclaimed wood, 248,450 square feet of exhibit space, 140,700 square feet of naturally lit lobby space and the 14,000-square-foot outdoor Garden Terrace. 

Contractors broke ground on the Seattle Convention Center project in August 2018 after the center's board of directors determined the economic impact that would benefit the state of Washington if a second facility was added. In a release, the former convention center turned away more than 300 potential events because of the unavailability of space in the Arch Building on the dates desired. 

The expansion hit a snag in January 2021 when the project was affected by the sudden drop in hotel/motel revenues in 2020. Project leader Matt Griffin said lodging taxes associated with travel and tourism were needed to pay back the bonds on the project, but revenue was decimated by the global pandemic. The project was over 30% complete when leaders asked for a federal bailout.  

Years later, with the Seattle Convention Center's expansion completed, Seattle is now home to North America's first high-rise convention center.

Officials said there have been 58 events booked at the Seattle Convention Center, with eight using the Arch and the Summit simultaneously. 

"We're thrilled for the new opportunities Summit together with Arch will create for our clients, community and industry," said Jeff Blosser, president and CEO. "The Seattle Convention Center is pleased to increase its availability of space for event planners and extend its connection to those who live in, visit or work downtown."

The Seattle Convention Center is believed to achieve LEED Gold certification, because "environmentally friendly" design elements were used during construction, including plant-based acoustic ceiling tiles and bio-based fabric panels. The rooftop has solar panels that will boost the building's energy performance by 30% over the baseline rating and a rainwater harvesting system to reduce irrigation usage by a projected 89%, according to figures provided by the center. 

The new location is near about 7,000 hotel rooms within a six-block radius, according to a release. The Summit is off Interstate 5, giving access to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is near the Link light rail and other public transportation. 

The Seattle Convention Center has been in operation since 1988. 

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