Up from the ashes of Pasadena's former premier meeting place, a new convention center has risen and will play a role in boosting the city's travel and tourism revenue.

The $150 million project started with razing the old building. The new one is double its size, and offers a new 60,000-square-foot exhibition space and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom. The facility, next to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and a conference hall, opens in March.

The Pasadena Convention Center will be a draw for groups looking for a meeting space for events of about 3,000 people near downtown Los Angeles.

That number can't fill the Los Angeles Convention Center, but groups of that size may not want to hold conventions at smaller halls in Long Beach and Santa Monica because of their distance from Los Angeles and Hollywood.

"The L.A. Convention Center is large, and sometimes its size for a medium-size group is a little intimidating," said Michael Krauss of the L.A. Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the L.A. venue. "And Long Beach, while in L.A. County, is a little further away from downtown and other regions."

Even though the L.A. facility has smaller halls to accommodate groups of that size, the campus is "just too intimidating," Krauss said. He often refers small groups to Santa Monica and Long Beach, and will now recommend they consider Pasadena.

More than 50 groups have already booked events for this year at the Pasadena Convention Center, including the California Police Chiefs Association, which will inaugurate the conference hall March 1. (An official grand opening is scheduled for April 3.)

Michael Ross, chief executive of the Pasadena Center Operation Co., said the new venue is generating buzz among organizations that are looking to meet in the Southern California region.

"We now will have a convention destination that will allow a state association type of business to look at Pasadena as opposed to Ontario, San Diego, bigger L.A. hotels and Long Beach," said Ross, who oversees the Convention Center, Civic Auditorium and the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We are now going to be a competitor."

In addition to the larger exhibition hall and ballroom, the Convention Center offers 28 breakout rooms for small-group activities and private meetings, and 3,000 parking spaces.

Pasadena's hotels and restaurants are also expecting a boost from the thousands of people attending the conferences, trade shows and company meetings that will be held in the city.


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