Only a day’s drive from 60 percent of the country’s population, Louisville is a two hours’ drive from Indianapolis and Nashville, four hours from St. Louis and five hours from Chicago. It’s this easy access—combined with Kentucky Exposition Center with its 1.3 million square feet of exhibition space and reputation for hosting premier spectator events like the Kentucky Derby—that has helped build the city’s long-standing reputation for the convention market.
“Louisville has always been a convention destination, but everyone around us was growing and expanding their hotels and centers,” says Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism. “Our community leaders understood that we needed to take tourism to the next level.”
The expanded facility allows Louisville, home of Connect 2019, to reach new groups that couldn’t consider the destination in the past due to space constrictions. Now able to accommodate up to 95 percent of groups booked in the United States with the expanded facility, Louisville is looking to draw more association groups from Washington, D.C., and Chicago, as well as expand its foothold in the medical education and sports markets.
The opening of the newly renovated and expanded Kentucky International Convention Center in August is the crowning jewel on a nearly $1 billion investment in Louisville’s downtown district. Part of a revitalization plan, the result is a modern convention facility surrounded by a walkable city highlighted by new hotels, a bustling bourbon and culinary scene, and museums that bring together visitors, delegates and the community to experience Kentucky pride.
Following a $207 million investment, the updated and expanded convention center now has 200,000 square feet of exhibit space as well as a 40,000-sq.-ft. ballroom, a 175-seat conference theater and 52 meeting rooms. With a contemporary, open-air feel, the new KICC visually connects inside and outside spaces with naturally lit lobbies and canopy skylights. The center’s latest technology includes high-capacity Wi-Fi and digital signage, along with LEED Silver certification.