Photo credit: Kentucky International Convention Center

Louisville is a happening city these days as it celebrates its rich history of Southern hospitality and expands its efforts to welcome more visitors in the coming years.

Here’s an update of developments at Kentucky’s booming gem.

A Glittering, New Convention Center

Uniquely designed with the same oak wood trimming as bourbon barrels, Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) will bring a Kentucky flare to meetings when it opens Aug. 6.

The $207 million project has been designed by the same masterminds behind Ghirardelli Square Plaza in San Francisco and LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal B in New York City. The innovative layout carefully considers navigation, pedestrian flow and water conservation. Project members hope to stick a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council on its walls, as well.

The old convention center was torn down to make room for this one, which will benefit meeting planners immensely. A 40,000-square-foot ballroom with color-changing LED walls, more than 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 52 meeting rooms and a 175-seat conference theater are just some of the highlights.

Looking for more of a taste of what’s to come? Oak & Brew is a daytime coffee spot that will turn into a bourbon bar at night in true Kentucky fashion. Levy Restaurants, a Chicago-based and award-winning restaurateur, is spearheading the project. KICC’s kitchen capacity will top off at a whopping 15,000 meals per day.

KICC will be located near more than 6,000 hotels, including Omni Louisville. The new, elegant hotel has more than 600 guest rooms, 70,000 sq. ft of meeting space and a swanky bowling alley that doubles as a speakeasy.

Louisville CVB Gets a Makeover

Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau is celebrating its 50th year of marketing the city by changing its name to Louisville Tourism. It’s a move that commemorates the city’s rapid growth and its more than 16.4 million annual visitors.

Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism, said she appreciates the work of the hospitality industry and the locals for welcoming many visitors with so much warmth.

“On the occasion of our 50th celebration, we want to recognize the work of our entire industry and our local community by simplifying what we call ourselves,” Williams said.

Additionally, the CVB is introducing two new website features, including a new jobs portal that will list hospitality industry openings and career path information for the aspiring tourism professional. Another portal will spotlight free speakers, who will educate prospects about utilizing visitor resources and planning any kind of event.

“Though the operating name of our organization has changed several times since 1968, our mission has not,” Williams said. “We exist to grow Louisville’s economy through tourism in its many forms, from conventions and meetings to group and leisure travel.”