After year of planning and work, progress is visible as you pass by the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. The $1.3 billion
project is scheduled to be completed in 2025, and changes to the county-owned venue are becoming apparent.
There’s also a change at the center’s helm; a new general manager is taking over, and he’s someone who has experience with redeveloped, reimagined public event and convention spaces. Charles Beirne has been appointed by ASM Global, the event and venue management company that runs the convention center, as the center’s general manager.
Beirne’s been with ASM for 23 years and worked around the country, including stints
at the Atlantic City Convention Center and his most recent post, the Los Angeles area’s Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, where he oversaw a $60 million capital improvement project. Broward’s massive project includes a six-acre waterfront plaza with an amphitheater and three restaurants and an on-site, 800-room Omni hotel that will include amenities such as restaurant and bar options including a rooftop bar, a spa and fitness center. The convention center itself is doubling in size to 1.2 million square feet. The convention center portion of the project will cost $575 million while the hotel portion will cost $725 million, a figure that includes land
“I think Broward’s on the leading edge,” Beirne says of the project. Previously, though the center sat on the Intracoastal, it didn’t really have spaces that made use of that. The new center will take advantage of its location both for the general public and convention center users. “It’s playing on everything that is so great about the greater Fort Lauderdale area,” Beirne says. “I think this will be a fabulous
facility and probably one of the most unique in the country.”
It’s also playing on new trends in convention center use.
“It’s a new direction I believe the industry’s going; people want to have more areas to get together, to do business,” he says. “People want to get together again, they want to be outside. Our goal is to have people come to the center, connect, collaborate and communicate.”
More and more, meeting and convention organizers are looking for interesting outdoor
spaces to hold breakout events, Visit Lauderdale marketing and communications senior
executive JoNell Modys says. Often, that involves renting coaches to take attendees to an off-site location. Not necessary here.
“You’re coming to a destination, to an experience for your show,” Beirne says.
To that end, they’re also doing things like hiring a new executive chef – the food level at the convention center has been good, but they want to bump everything up to the next level. The 800-room Omni also makes it more sellable to groups.
Now, the work continues in and around a convention center that remains open for business. Right now an additional 200,000 square feet of space is already in use, as well as two ballrooms. Soon, the public will be able to see even more. And, they stress, with its outdoor public spaces, restaurants and other amenities, this will be a space for the general public as well as convention and event attendees.
“Broward County,” Modys says, “is inviting the community to come into that space.”