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The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, with the long white roof just above the bridge, has seen lots of recent upgrades, with more to come.

In New Orleans, Convention-Center Updates Moving Along

Refurbishment of 140 meeting rooms and prefunction/public spaces is in the works, while two new ballrooms are on the drawing board—and a headquarters hotel is back in the conversation.

After some legal wrangling between contractors vying to work on the project, the $557 million improvement plan for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans has picked up again, and there are timelines for completion of certain elements.

First, the design work for the renovations to all 140 meeting rooms in the facility is near completion, and the refreshed rooms will be ready for events by the end of 2023. Also, the redesign and modernization of prefunction spaces and public areas (see image below) is underway and will be complete by late 2024.

NewOrleans4.pngAll-new spaces that are slated to be built in the next few years include a New Orleans-themed ballroom (see image here) with floor-to-ceiling windows providing sweeping views of the Mississippi River, plus a 10,000-square-foot multi-purpose room that will have views of downtown New Orleans. No firm completion dates have been set for these.

NewOrleans2.pngSome aspects of the $557 million improvement plan are already complete. In 2021, the center invested $5 million in technology infrastructure, including WiFi improvements, dozens of new charging stations throughout the exhibit halls, and wayfinding kiosks in all exhibit-hall lobbies. The center also overhauled its electrical floor boxes for exhibit booths and renovated 35 sets of restrooms. And it installed LED exhibit-hall lighting across 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, resulting in brighter spaces at significant energy savings. For better environmental control, the facility installed four new chillers, two new cooling towers, six new boilers, and a new systems-monitoring station.

In 2020, the center turned 7.5 acres of Convention Center Boulevard into a green pedestrian park that features interactive water elements, live-event spaces, public-art installations, and shaded gathering places. And in 2019, the center debuted a transportation center allowing shuttles, taxis, and ride-shares to efficiently pick up and drop off attendees. The shuttle hub within that area is equipped with digital signage to help attendees find their specific hotel shuttles.

Plans to build a headquarters hotel next to the center were shelved at the start of the Covid pandemic. But to restart that conversation, convention-center management released in mid-October a report from hospitality consultancy HVS detailing the benefits of building a 600-room headquarters hotel with 50,000 square feet of meeting space and several restaurants. The New Orleans City Council must weigh in on the idea for it to move forward.

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