The San Jose McEnery Convention Center is undergoing a massive renovation and expansion project, which will create 125,000 sf of new convention space for a total of 550,000 sf when it debuts on Oct. 11.
We spoke with Bill Sherry, CEO of Team San Jose, to learn more about the project and what it means for planners.
Prevue: What were the key reasons for the convention center renovation and expansion project?
Bill Sherry: The San Jose McEnery Convention Center has not seen a significant renovation since it opened in 1989, so it was dated in design and many shows were outgrowing it. Although Team San Jose is renowned for its one-stop approach to meeting services, this $130 million renovation and expansion project will help us become much more competitive as a meetings and convention destination. The new convention center will allow San Jose to compete for bigger events, keep current conferences that are growing and program multiple medium-sized events at the same time.
In addition, the center’s new design was reviewed and validated by San Jose’s Client Advisory Board, a group of seasoned conference meeting decision makers. Much of the new networking spaces, meeting space layout, plaza design and other critical factors are in place as a result of the client feedback we received.
What can meeting planners expect in terms of innovative features at the newly renovated convention center?
Planners can take advantage of improvements such as the new grand ballroom, more breakout flexible meeting space and new outdoor event space, as well as an improved arrival experience. There is new lighting for all event needs as well as flatscreens that assist with wayfinding and can also be used for branding opportunities. The Lobby Lounge, named The Hub, offers an inviting, naturally lit space for guests to meet between sessions.
What part of the renovation project would you say stands out the most?
What stands out is the convention center expansion and renovation project’s sleek new design, which is much more reflective of San Jose. We’ll now welcome visitors with bright California colors and styles including reclaimed redwood ceilings, accents and newly added networking spaces. New open spaces offer clean lines, natural light and a modern high-tech feel to create a renewed sense of place for event attendees.
We’re seeking LEED Silver certification for the expanded portion of the center, which will complement our comprehensive green practices and services, such as being one of the few centers in the West to offer composting. We also source a lot of local organic ingredients for our customized menus.
What does San Jose offer to groups compared to other destinations?
More than 98 percent of planners say they’d return to San Jose—mostly for three reasons. The first is our one-stop shop for meeting services, which makes it much easier for planners as they don’t have to work with multiple organizations to put on an event. The second is the fact that we run the convention center and theaters, so we control the quality of the experience from beginning to end. And the third is our walkable downtown that minimizes the need for transportation and offers plenty to do after conference sessions are over.
Are there any other meetings-related projects on the horizon that meeting planners should keep on their radar?
To keep up with San Jose’s transformation at the new, modern Mineta San Jose International Airport and new San Jose McEnery Convention Center and other local investments, San Jose hotels are renovating and rebranding on an ongoing basis to continue San Jose’s economic growth.
Recent hotel rebranding efforts include: San Jose Crowne Plaza is now a Hyatt Place; DoubleTree is now the DoubleTree by Hilton; St. Claire Hotel is changing to the Westin St. Claire; Wyndham San Jose has rebranded to San Jose Holiday Inn; and Montgomery Hotel is now Four Points by Sheraton San Jose.