The LA Convention

The LA Convention Center is home to a variety of annual conventions, trade shows and exhibitions that bring both crowds and organizations to the heart of Los Angeles.

The city of Los Angeles has long fought to remain at the forefront of innovation and entertainment. It has been exploring opportunities to expand and modernize the Los Angeles Convention Center to compete with the likes of San Francisco, Anaheim and San Diego for the past decade.

After progress has been stunted by the pandemic, the city planning commission will consider a proposal in the coming months that would include the expansion of the JW Marriott hotel complex.

The public-private partnership development proposed by the Anschutz Entertainment Group would fulfill the city’s needs for an expanded exhibition facility and full-service hotel capacity. 

Plenary Group is scheduled to create a development plan for the convention center’s expansion, along with an approximately 850-room JW Marriott hotel expansion with ballroom and meeting room facilities to support international events.

“Our convention center competes with convention centers all over the world,” said Doane Liu, executive director of LA City Tourism Department.

The proposed convention center expansion project will feature a 700,000-square-foot new hall building, which would connect the existing south and west halls over Pico Boulevard. 

The new hall building will include a new exhibit hall space with approximately 750,000 square feet of contiguous convention facilities, meeting rooms and a rooftop multipurpose hall.

The expansion also includes the interior modernization of the existing concourse and south hall buildings, including partial demolitions of each hall to connect to the new hall building, as well as construction of a new west hall lobby entrance at Chick Hearn Court adjacent to the JW Marriott expansion; renovation of Gilbert Lindsay Plaza; development of the Pico Boulevard underpass, often referred to as Pico Passage; a new Bond Street parking garage; and a comprehensive signage program.

Along with the direct sales from convention space, the convention center’s expansion will bring economic growth to LA from sources like hotel rooms, restaurants and shops. According to Liu, the potential loss of business in the next five to 10 years by not expanding the center could exceed over $3 billion.

“It’s a huge economic driver, as conventions are a big part of our tourism industry and tourism is a big part of our local economy,” Liu said. 

“We’ve always lacked the number of hotel rooms that are needed, so a big piece of attracting conventions is not only the expansion of the convention center but also increasing the number of hotels rooms that are available in the Downtown area that are within walking distance.”

Hotels can play a central role in attracting conventions, as they can house employees and crowds within walking distance of the convention center. The expansion project would add 870 hotel rooms to the JW Marriott, nearly doubling its size and making it the city’s largest hotel.

Liu’s vision is that the newly expanded convention center will house medical or tech conventions. Previously, the center couldn’t hold events that large, like the American Association of Cancer Research, which hosts one of the world’s largest cancer research conventions.

The convention center’s expansion will also benefit its signature events, such as the LA auto show, Anime Expo and E3.

“Our signature events can grow, and we want to grow with them,” Liu said. “We’ve heard from a number of these clients that if they had more space, they would take it, so we’re excited to be able to accommodate their growth, too.”

The convention center would be able to host multiple events at once.

“It’s more than just a big old building on Figueroa,” Liu said. 

“It’s a home and it’s a gateway to the city for many people that never get a chance to come to Los Angeles,” Liu said.