Michael Ross, chief executive officer of the Pasadena Center Operating Co.; Jeanne O’Grady Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau; Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International; and Jon Guynn, vice president of operations for Oak View Group Media & Conferences, celebrate the Pasadena Convention Center’s 10-year anniversary. 

“We’ve done very well” in 10 years since big rebuild

California’s Pasadena Convention Center celebrated its 10-year anniversary May 9 with an evening reception.

The event took place inside the convention center’s ballroom with special guests Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International; Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek; board members of the Pasadena Center Operating Co., which manages the center as well as the 3,000-seat Civic Auditorium and the convention and visitors bureau; hotel partners and more. The event coincided with National Travel and Tourism Week May 5-11.

The Pasadena Convention Center opened in March 2009, after a 32-month rebuild using $161 million from a tourist tax on hotel rooms. Improvements included the addition of a 55,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 28 meeting rooms.

“We’ve done very well,” said Michael Ross, Pasadena Center Operating Co. CEO. “We opened in 2009, which was a difficult time in the economy. But we weathered the storm and the center really took off in 2012. We are now one of the premier convention centers in the western part of the country.”

The facility does many scientific and technology events and often partners with Cal Tech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We’ve become a hub for science and tech,” Ross said. “We also do a lot of state association businesses as well.”

Some of the biggest events over the last 10 years have included the Committee on Space Research General Assembly in 2018, the event’s first return to the U.S. since 2002, plus gatherings and conferences such as Great Minds in STEM, AlienCon, Monsterpalooza, Mary Kay and AltaMed Health Services Corp.

Coming are Space Tech later this month, Lightbox Expo in September and the California Library Association in October.

“We’ve had 4,700 events and 3.7 million attendees and that brings a lot of people to Pasadena to shop and go to restaurants and stay in hotels,” Ross said. “That generates over $10 million a year for the city of Pasadena.”

Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International, gave the keynote speech at the convention center’s celebration.

“I wanted to celebrate the progress and impact the Pasadena Convention Center has had on its community,” Welsh said. “We focus on four core pillars — community, advocacy, research and education — and the Pasadena team has hit it out of the park on every one of those.”

Welsh also mentioned the quality of the building, the hotel-like finishings and the beautiful grounds as added incentive to book an event at the venue.

Opening the building is Ross’ favorite memory. “It was a long process to get to that point,” he said. “Then in 2012 when the economy turned, we got super busy, and we’ve been successful ever since and returned money to community.”

Money has also gone back into the building, Ross said, mentioning new carpeting, new videoboards, and refreshed concession stands. The building’s concessionaire is Centerplate.

On the drawing board is a 10-year vision plan that may include another expansion.

“We plan to stay busy,” Ross said. “We think there is still a lot of growth for us and the future is bright. People love our weather and they love our city.”