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Bookings roll in for Expo Center

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

If you build it, they will come. In fact, even before you build it, plan on getting reservations.

That seems to be the case with the proposed Expo Center that will be developed in the downtown area by John Q. Hammons as part of the Civic Park project.

"People started booking it the minute they heard it was a reality," said Randy Roelofsz, the general manager of the Holiday Inn University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, another Hammons property. Roelofsz said it is mostly state and regional associations that are booking the center.

"Some groups are still looking at the facility, but they're not ready to step out on a limb and commit to anything yet," he said. "When the time line is set, even more people will be interested; then things will move ahead."

Roelofsz said current plans are for the building to be up and running by the year 2001.

As of now, plans call for the center to be 100,000 square feet on one level.

The exhibition space will total 45,000 to 55,000 square feet. There will also be pre-convention space, such as hallways, where people can set up their displays or wares. Breakout rooms, which are dedicated smaller spaces, will be used for meetings that break out from the main group. Dining will be in those areas rather than in a separate location.

"The building will be able to handle anything," Roelofsz said. "With a purpose-built building, we'll also be able to go outside the area and compete for business with places in Oklahoma City, Kansas City and St. Louis."

He said the E-Plex at the fairgrounds already shows that Springfield can draw a lot of people here. For example, the Gold Wing Road Riders will come to town and will be using that space. "Prior to the E-Plex being built, we couldn't meet the needs of a crowd their size," Roelofsz said.

"When groups are looking at coming to Springfield, they have two questions: 'Do you have enough rooms available in the city to meet our needs?' and 'Are there enough rooms to use as a headquarter hotel?'

"Our current expo center provides 8-by-10 booths for companies, but that's about all. We can't serve a meal for 2,000 people there," Roelofsz said. "But with this building, we'll be able to do that and more."


The Expo Center will make Springfield competitive with St. Louis and Kansas City.


John Q. Hammons' Expo Center is currently planned to comprise 100,000 square feet as part of the Civic Park project.[[In-content Ad]]


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