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Austin Moving Forward With $1.6B Convention Center Expansion

Photo of Austin Convention Center during SXSW.

Plans for a major redevelopment and expansion of Austin Convention Center are moving forward after the City of Austin announced it is issuing a RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for a design and engineering firm for the project. 

In the study and planning stages for several years, the project aims to double the existing 376,000 square feet of rentable space in the facility, located in the capital city of Texas

“Releasing the RFQ for the design is the first of many steps, but is a vital one for our city’s future,” said Kirk Watson, the mayor of Austin, in a statement announcing the RFQ. “An expanded convention center has been a topic of conversation for years and, as we continue to become a focal point in the world, we have to accommodate a large number of events.

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“With an inadequate convention center, we lose out to competitors and, consequently, miss out on millions of dollars for our Austin community,” he continued. “With a bigger convention center, the economic impact to our city is estimated to jump to over $750 million annually, from the current $468 million. A larger facility also means more travelers to Austin and jobs in the Austin hospitality industry.” 

The mayor’s sentiments were echoed by the leadership of the venue. 

“To give the community, visitors and attendees the true authentic Austin experience, we want the new Austin Convention Center to be an iconic, innovative and symbolic meeting location,” said Trisha Tatro, director, Austin Convention Center Department (ACCD), also in the statement. “Along with providing more rentable space, we want a signature design that will provide state-of-the-art technologies and be an industry-leading facility that is ready to exceed future clients' needs.” 

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Austin Convention Center Expansion Timeline 

According to the Austin Convention Center Department, the current project timeline estimates that the building closure, demolition and construction activities would begin in 2025 with completion and the larger facility reopening in 2029. The ACCD estimates the cost of the redevelopment and expansion to be $1.6 billion, which would be funded from the convention center’s allocation from the municipal hotel occupancy tax and convention center revenues. 

Plans call for the project to integrate the exterior of the building into the surrounding Palm District, reopening street grids to create a more community centric destination in the southeast corner of downtown. 

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Photo of Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Austin CVB.
Tom Noonan

“Austin is the 11th largest city in the U.S., but currently, we have the 59th largest convention center,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin in the statement. “In the last few years, we’ve seen roughly 50% of our convention center leads lost due to the lack of space or availability, so we know the demand for a new center is there. This new center will allow us to be more competitive within the state and with our major national competitors.” 

More information about the history, timeline and links to the studies of the redevelopment of the Austin Convention Center can be found here

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.