From left: Tom Morton, Anaheim Convention Center; Denise Barnes, Anaheim city council member for District 1; Mayor Pro Tem James Vanderbilt, City of Anaheim; Stephen Faessel, Anaheim city council member for District 5; Kristine Ridge, City of Anaheim; Lucille Kring, Anaheim city council member for District 4; Rudy Emami, City of Anaheim; Charles Ahlers, Visit Anaheim; Jay Burress, Visit Anaheim; Linda Andal, City of Anaheim

Massive convention center expansion opens in Anaheim

Once upon a time, Anaheim revolved around Disneyland, but that’s not the case any longer. Walt Disney wasn’t the only visionary to leave his stamp on this ever-growing city when he opened the amusement park 62 years ago. Theme park attendance peaked during summer recess and the holiday period when families are most likely to travel, but other times of year there was a lull. Anaheim Convention Center (ACC), which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is now attracting people year-round to fill up hotel rooms. To keep up with the times, ACC North opened on Sept. 26. It’s the seventh “betterment” expansion to the center.

With the addition of 200,000 sq. ft., ACC entered the elite “1 million-square-foot-club,” an excited Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim, announced. The 1.8-million -square-foot structure is the largest convention center on the West Coast and 11th largest in the United States.

After seeing a need from potential and current clients for more breakout space, ACC turned itself into the contortionist of convention centers. It can host multiple clients simultaneously without cross-interference. Even before cutting the ribbon to usher in a new era of ACC history, 75 meetings were booked at the venue. The Orange County International Auto Show had already begun setting up in the exhibition hall on opening day and Best Buy was soon to follow.

Anaheim Convention Center
Exterior of ACC North expansion

With the expanded space, Visit Anaheim anticipates bookings will continue at an elevated pace. One example of the role the new square footage will play is booking of American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Sessions in November. “That group wouldn’t have come here without this space. In fact, they were booked in… another destination, and that destination couldn’t deliver their expansion, so we were able to secure it with the caveat that we expand our convention center,” said Junior Tauvaa, senior vice president of sales and services for Visit Anaheim.

Other large groups that rent out ACC are Disney’s D23 Expo, VidCon and WonderCon. These historic grounds have also hosted the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys. Southern California is known for its sunshine, so Tauvaa encourages meeting professionals to “un-conference their conference” by bringing events outdoors to ACC’s two plazas or new 10,000-square-foot, street-front balcony overlooking Disney California Adventure Park and nightly fireworks. During the day, the terrace doesn’t receive direct sunlight, so guests can schmooze comfortably in the shade. ACC North also has two freight elevators and double the kitchen size.

Anaheim Convention Center
Attendees enjoy lunch and music inside ACC North

Architect Todd Voth, founder and senior principal of the firm Populous, points out that ACC North blends the outdoors and indoors. Its architecture and carpeting draw inspiration from ocean waves and the reflection of palm trees coming through the building’s window panes. Designers consciously made the new building and existing structures flow seamlessly to form this unified campus. He adds that there will be enough parking to accommodate the large groups ACC expects to attract.

Burress raved that this betterment project was executed so successfully, other cities plan to study and emulate it. He also shared that his team will be taking the show on the road soon to showcase its pride and joy.

Another selling point is the convention center’s close proximity to high volume hotels, such as Hilton Anaheim (1,574 guest rooms and more than 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space) and Anaheim Marriott (1,030 guest rooms and more than 100,000 sq. ft. of event space), in addition to three Disneyland Resort Hotels. Anaheim has broken ground on a new four-diamond Westin property, which will serve as the brand’s flagship location when it replaces the Anabella in 2020. It’ll have 613 guest rooms, 4,200 sq. ft. of meeting space—all on the first floor—and seat 1,800 people, theater style.