Hip and progressive, fun and sophisticated, open and welcoming, Ohio’s largest and fastest growing city is shining. From entertainment to fashion, from business to shopping, Columbus’ best qualities make it a prime destination for a diverse range of visitors. At the heart of the action sits the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, owner and operator of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Hilton Columbus Downtown Hotel, Nationwide Arena and parking facilities totaling more than 3,200 spaces. Poised at the city’s convention and tourism epicenter, the FCCFA’s facilities are where people meet Columbus.
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The Franklin County Commissioners created the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority in 1988 to finance the construction and operation of a new Columbus convention center. As a unique government unit responsible for developing, building and operating convention facilities, the FCCFA today owns and operates the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Hilton Columbus Downtown Hotel and Nationwide Arena, as well as our four parking facilities.
In addition to the Convention Center, Hilton Columbus Downtown Hotel and Nationwide Arena, the FCCFA also owns land used to develop the Hyatt Regency, the Drury Inn and Suites and various parking facilities.
The FCCFA is empowered to issue tax and lease revenue bonds backed by the hotel tax receipts, and currently levies a 4 percent countywide hotel occupancy tax and an additional 0.9 percent citywide hotel occupancy tax. These tax rates have remained unchanged since they were established in 1988.
Completely self-sustaining, the FCCFA operates independently of other governmental units and is overseen by an 11-member board appointed by the Franklin County Commissioners (six members), the City of Columbus (three members) and suburban mayors (two members).
The FCCFA may be most closely associated with The Greater Columbus Convention Center, a landmark facility that opened in 1993 and anchors the city’s Short North Arts District. Built in response to growing demand for conventions within the region, community leaders took the bold step of investing in the future with a one-of-a-kind convention center.
Running along the east side of High Street between Nationwide Boulevard and Goodale Street, the Convention Center succeeded the Ohio Center, a mixed-use facility that opened at High and Nationwide in 1980, but which soon proved too small to serve as an effective convention center.
The new Convention Center immediately distinguished itself as a unique and progressive vehicle for achieving the vision that city and county leaders had for Columbus. Inspired by the former rail terminal on which it sits, the Convention Center is marked by sharp angles inside and out, spacious walkways and unique spaces that signal a bold community not content with the ordinary.
Appearing on the cover of Architecture magazine in May 1993, the nation’s newest convention center was hailed as “astounding for the ways its complexity and ambition have broken out of the architect’s atelier – and out of the ghettoes of protected cultural and academic institutions – into a public arena.”
With a total 1.7 million square feet today, the Convention Center opened with 215,000 square feet of exhibit space, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a 25,000 square foot ballroom. The design by architect Peter Eisenman reflects High Street’s tradition of narrow structures with articulate facades, and incorporates horizontal linear forms suggestive of the rail yards that once occupied the site.
The Convention Center was expanded in 2001 with an additional 125,000 square feet of exhibition space, 15,000 square feet of meeting space and a new 15,000 square foot ballroom – a total expansion of 155,000 square feet. It is a major contributor to the local tourism industry, which in 2013 brought nearly 38 million visitors to Columbus and pumped almost $9 billion into the local economy.
Just a short walk from major entertainment, sports, dining, arts and shopping destinations, the Convention Center is very much part of a vibrant, growing neighborhood. No wonder the Greater Columbus Convention Center has become one of America’s favorite sites for local, state, regional and national groups and organizations.
Columbus’ position as the fastest-growing city in Ohio and one of the most vibrant rising cities in the nation positioned it as a key convention destination and made it increasingly clear that continued success would require additional accommodations. Tourism and convention advocates agreed, making the case for additional hotel rooms to attract larger conventions and events to Columbus. Community leaders determined a new 500-room convention hotel would meet the room requirements of 92 percent of the conventions targeted by the community, whereas the city’s previous capacity could accommodate only 65 percent of targeted conventions.
Franklin County Commissioners agreed to back the hotel with credit enhancements in case other revenue sources proved insufficient, and the City of Columbus agreed to allow the hotel tax to be used to finance hotel development. In 2010, the FCCFA began construction of the Hilton Columbus Downtown across High Street from the Convention Center. The 532-room hotel opened in 2012, and has been paying down construction debt even more quickly than anticipated.
In 2012, the FCCFA took ownership of Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets and anchor of the successful Arena District, financing the project by collecting up to a third of the Ohio casino tax revenue owed to the City of Columbus and Franklin County. The agreement was struck in partnership with the City of Columbus, Franklin County and The Ohio State University, protecting thousands of jobs in the Arena District while ensuring that the Blue Jackets will continue to call Nationwide Arena home through 2039.
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The Greater Columbus Convention Center sits on the site of Union Station, which served Columbus railroad passengers from 1850 to 1977.
The Convention Center boasts 33 loading docks and three drive-in ramps.
The Convention Center has operated successfully since 1993 without government subsidies.
The FCCFA’s 4 percent countywide bed tax has never increased since it was instated in 1988.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to make Nationwide Arena their NHL home until September 2039.
The FCCFA is a staunch supporter of the local arts, displaying local works throughout its properties.
2014 was the most successful year for the Hilton Columbus Downtown, as revenues increased by 20 percent over 2013.
The FCCFA’s new $18 million state-of-the-art garage on Goodale Street was built at no cost to taxpayers.
The Convention Center’s Battelle Grand Ballroom is the largest multipurpose ballroom in Ohio.
The Convention Center’s food partner, Levy Restaurants, partners with Cameron Mitchell Restaurant Group to drive local and social business.