Convention center invests $1.1 million in sports-court flooring to lure events
The Hawai‘i Convention Center today is unveiling $1.1 million in new flooring that can convert its 204,000-square-foot exhibition hall into courts for amateur and professional sporting events in an effort to diversify group business. The Amateur Athletic Union Honolulu Grand Prix women’s volleyball tournament, with an estimated 1,000 athletes and being held over Presidents Day weekend, will be the first event on the new sports courts, which can be configured into 28 volleyball and badminton courts, 18 basketball courts or 11 futsal (indoor soccer) courts. Investing in the portable sports flooring will help the convention center attract a new market that Hawaii has yet to capitalize on, said Teri Orton, general manager. The venue, along with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, is increasing efforts to bring more athletic events to Hawaii, she said. The center has already booked two major sports events for 2017, including a basketball tournament in June. “(The two events) will generate $1.3 million in tax revenue for the state, so in essence we’ve pretty much paid the courts off in the first year,” she said. “The objective of purchasing the courts was to bring in mainland and international teams with the intent to increase business to the state of Hawaii and drive room nights to our hotel partners. This is just the beginning to what I believe is a new way for Hawaii to enhance its ability to attract sporting events that have strong followings around the world.”
In addition to volleyball, badminton, basketball and futsal, the courts can also accommodate wrestling,
gymnastics, martial arts, dance, cheerleading, group fitness activities and table tennis. There is also an option to add elevated seating for spectators. Orton is hoping to book at least four to five sporting events a year.
“It was major expenditure. To convince HTA to spend $1.1 million without a guarantee is a little scary,” said Brad Gessner, senior vice president of Los Angeles-based AEG Facilities, which manages the center. “We worked on this for two years.”
AEG’s strategy to diversify
business seems to be working.
For the first time last year, the convention center recorded a $611,500 profit following annual losses averaging about $3.5 million. “There’s probably less than five convention centers in North America that actually have an operational surplus. They’re almost all subsidized,” he said. “So it’s a huge accomplishment.” The facility, projecting a loss of $1.7 million for 2017, is negotiating with several other athletic clubs interested in bringing their sporting events to Hawaii.
Hawai‘i Convention Center executives Leslie Dance, left, and Teri Orton, right, along with Brad Gessner of AEG Facilities, got a look at the center’s new athletic floor and equipment Thursday.