The City of San Jose threw itself a party Thursday for the newly opened expansion of its San Jose Convention Center and invited citizens to stop in and take a look around.
An open house was held with free food and beverages, prize raffles and costumed characters of several Warner Bros. cartoon stars like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck posing for photos with guests.
This was all to show off the $120 million, nearly 170,000-square-foot addition to the existing 425,000-square-foot convention center that opened in 1989.
Being that San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley, the convention center has hosted its fair share of tech events over the years, said Meghan Horrigan, the spokeswoman for Team San Jose, the organization that manages the facility. The Santa Clara Convention Center and the Moscone Center in San Francisco also host several tech conferences a year, but San Jose is right in there with them.
The San Jose Convention Center, which remained open during construction, recently hosted a tech event for Google and another one for Hewlett-Packard, said Horrigan.
While those competing facilities are close by, she says Team San Jose competes statewide for convention business.
“Our competitors are cities like Long Beach or Anaheim, Sacramento and a few other locations in California,” Horrigan said. “In that sense, we are more competitive, partly because we’re able to offer more flexible meeting space and more breakout space specifically, which is what our clients have asked for.”
The addition offers a total 169,957 square feet of convention space, to be exact, including 27,834 square feet of flexible meeting space, which means walls can be added or removed to fit the space needs of a particular conference. It also includes a 35,194-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which the center didn’t have until now, Horrigan said.
The center is now of sufficient size that it can host multiple conferences at the same time, she said.
For the grand opening, the Symphony Silicon Valley performed in a program titled “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony,” hence the presence of the Warner Bros. characters.
In the main exhibit hall in the lower level of the two-story addition, various vendors representing hotels, restaurants and other businesses that stand to benefit from convention business were represented.
Some of the major hotels, especially those closest to the convention center, did renovations of their own in anticipation of improve convention activity, said Horrigan.
The Convention Center expansion is of a piece with the new Terminal B at Mineta San Jose International Airport, which opened June 30, 2010, and the renovation of San Jose Civic, the auditorium across San Carlos Street from the convention center, which is often booked as a concert venue, she said.
“I think our city is definitely going through a transformation and I think everyone recognizes that we can only do better from here,” said Horrigan.