House Bill 617 Clears Final Hurdle for Building Convention Center Hotel

June 6, 2019

With the passage of House Bill 617, officials with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center are now poised to move ahead as planned with negotiating a contract to build a new 1,200 room Headquarters Hotel as a centerpiece in the facility’s comprehensive Five Year, $557 million Capital Improvement Plan. The plan was created in 2017 following intensive study and customer focus group research to ensure that modernization of the 35-year old Convention Center and other related investments would bring maximum value to the region by strengthening the city’s competitive hospitality advantages and generating new jobs for local residents and new tax revenues for the city and state.

Sponsored by State Representative, Walt Leger, the bill gained wide approval in both the House and Senate, and now awaits the Governor’s signature. The legislation, which was led by State Senators J.P. Morrell and Karen Carter Peterson on the Senate floor, allows the Exhibition Hall Authority, the convention center’s governing body, to move forward with the development of the planned world-class hotel, as well as the critically needed reinvestment into improvements at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

“The Exhibition Hall Authority Board of Commissioners is delighted with the enactment of this important legislation, and is grateful to Governor Edwards and members of the legislature who understood the critical need to constantly improve our competitiveness and enhance what we offer convention clients and attendees from around the world,” said Authority Chair Melvin Rodrigue.

Rodrigue notes that the new hotel will generate an infusion of $280 million per year for the state and city economies and an additional $24 million in new tax revenues. “Taken collectively, building this hotel and the enhancements and other new investments we are undertaking represent the largest economic development initiative in the city in many years.” It is estimated that hotel construction will employ approximately 1,900 persons and that the new hotel will generate an additional 1,900 new permanent jobs for area residents.

Key features of the proposed Omni Hotel project include 1,200 guest rooms, 150,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, and multiple dynamic food and beverage and retail outlets. Enhancements and improvements being made to the convention center include replacement of the building’s 40-acre roof, significant upgrades to restrooms throughout the facility, and modernization of the meeting rooms and public areas. The Authority is currently funding a comprehensive reconstruction of Convention Center Boulevard to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists and to create a more appropriate and welcoming environment for the more than 900,000 convention center patrons who visit New Orleans each year.

“It is significant that these collective upgrades are being funded through convention center visitor taxes and convention center monies only, without a single local tax dollar being diverted from any important city or state projects,” said Convention Center President and General Manager Michael J. Sawaya.

About the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
With 1.1 million square feet of prime exhibit space, in an entirely contiguous hall, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center provides the largest single exhibit space in the country. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center features an award winning staff and first class amenities, and is the sixth largest convention center in the nation. A consistent Top 10 host of the largest conventions and tradeshows in the nation annually, the Convention Center is also one of the city’s “Top Workplaces.” A leading contributor to the city’s robust tourism economy, the Convention Center’s event activity has produced $81.7 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $5.1 billion in new tax revenue for state and local governments.

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