Tampa Bay Convention Center: Summer’s around the corner & things are heating up!

At first glimpse, convention centers seem like serious places designed for serious annual
meetings and industrial trade shows. It’s all about the exhibit space – contiguous exhibit space –
as well as the flexibility of meeting rooms, lobby reception areas, outdoor space, farm-to-table
catering menus, audiovisual capability, team players, staff members, safety and security, DEI,
awards and accreditations, and, especially, carbon footprint. It’s a whole lot of shop talk and
downright serious stuff.
       While all of the above is definitely “need-to-know” information, we lose sight of the fact
that convention centers can also be one of the most uplifting, positive, and constructive
forces of any city – always a great place to be with lots to see, do and even taste, usually located
right in the heart of town. And, too, they pump a lot of money into local and state economies as
well, meaning more jobs. Why you could say, in that respect, convention centers are worth their
weight in gold and add so much to the communities in which they thrive.
       I started reflecting on all this when I recently reviewed the latest news over at the
Tampa Convention Center (TBCC), Florida, and what’s coming up as we move into the
summer months. Yes, this award-winning, 600,000-square-foot facility has the perfect
qualifications for any type of serious meeting pow-wow or annual convention extravaganza of
any type or size. With a 3,600-square-foot ballroom and 52 flexible meeting rooms, the Tampa
Bay Convention Center is a proven winner among meeting planners and event organizers
alike. Its unique architectural features, spectacular waterfront views, and even a historic trolley
practically at the doorstep add to its overall appeal within the industry. It’s an ideal setting by
anyone’s measure. So, it’s no wonder that so many fun, unique, inspirational, and even
educational events are lined up at TBCC between now and the end of the summer.
       For instance, “Tampa CATstravaganza™.” This is fun. It’s a pedigree and non-pedigree
feline competition for Best in Show but, more than that, it also includes what they call a Rescue
Alley of lonely cats and dogs all seeking their forever homes. Great for them, their future
families, and the community as well. Plus, it warms one’s heart and we all need a little of that.
       Or, what about the “2024 USA Wheelchair Football League Tournament.” This is
major. The league is the first of its kind designed for adults with disabilities so that can reach
their highest potential through a competitive, fast-paced, team sport. The amazing event brings
together highly trained coaches with passionate athletes, building skills and inspiring participants
to excel both on and off the field through teamwork, dedication, and resilience. To date, the
annual event has helped more than 850 athletes and coaches, including 315 veterans, get off the
sidelines and into the game through learn-to-play clinics, practice and development
opportunities, camps, scrimmages, and tournaments that bring together the best adaptive athletes
from across the country. It’s just one big adrenaline rush.

What about “The Great American Franchise Expo.” Ok, it’s kind of on the serious side
of life but its title has a catchy ring to it and it’s a fun way to explore new career paths – in an
interesting yet entertaining way. The event connects hundreds of franchise businesses with
potential owners. It provides education through seminars from industry experts on topics
including franchise law, financing, and other critical business concepts. The event provides the
opportunity to network with both leading industry executives and franchise developers looking to
expand their brands. In addition, the show’s franchise exhibitors offer a tour of their concepts
through a virtual reality platform that’s very engaging.
       Also, things get pretty zany at the convention center with Florida's largest anime
convention, “METROCON.” This event boasts a number of exciting stage shows, unique
vendors, exciting panelists, and interactive events throughout, including the world-famous Anime
Human Chess Match, where popular characters from anime and video games battle it out for the
fate of the world, they say.
       There are a lot of other great and unusual events lined up through the summer months but
at summer’s end, the Tampa Bay Convention Center will host a special event that’s bound to be
huge: “The Humane Society Tampa Bay’s Signature Black Tie Gala.” It will feature live and
silent auctions, a cocktail hour with complimentary wine and beer, dinner and dessert, live
entertainment, an after-party and cigar-bar event on the waterfront, and more. More than 1,000
guests and community leaders are expected for a beautiful evening to help raise funds for the
homeless animals in the society’s care.
       All that said, the Tampa Bay Convention Center’s enlightening spring-into-summer
calendar of events shows us all that, yes, convention centers exist for the thousands of meetings
and tradeshows conducted all year long, but they also exist for the communities in which they
are located and add so much to the quality of life. That is why this summer Facilities &
Destinations’ SUPERBOOK Awards issue will pay tribute to some of the very best convention
centers in the U.S. today – and their destinations. We at F&D just can’t wait.

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