Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion to start soon

Work to expand the Winnipeg Convention Centre, nearly doubling its size, will start by the end of this year and hopefully be ready in 2015, officials announced Tuesday.

About 340,000 square feet to be added to downtown facility

An architectural rendering of the Winnipeg Convention Centre addition, which is slated to open by the end of 2015. Construction is expected to begin soon. (Number TEN Architectural Group/LM Architectural Group)

Work to expand the Winnipeg Convention Centre, nearly doubling its size, will start by the end of this year and hopefully be ready in 2015, officials announced Tuesday.

Construction will start in the coming weeks on the 340,000-square-foot addition, on land that is currently a parking lot adjacent to the existing 492,000-square-foot building.

Convention centre president Klaus Lahr said the expanded facility should be ready in time for New Year's Eve 2015.

"We're different from other facilities, OK? We need to … sell this facility," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"We [are] going to start tomorrow, selling the space of the expanded convention centre."

Lahr said the expansion project has been 12 years in the making, but he believes it'll be worth it.

Not a 'big dumb box'

The architects involved in the project have delivered on a mandate not to design a "big dumb box," he added.

"An iconic building, a building that works well, a building that looks good in the city, fits into the surroundings, and makes the citizens of Winnipeg proud of [it]," Lahr said.

A view of the City Room, a new exhibition hall that will be part of the convention centre addition. (Number TEN Architectural Group/LM Architectural Group)

The addition will create a total of 147,000 square feet of contiguous space that can host more than 700 exhibit booths.

The design plans include the City Room, a 46,000-square-foot exhibition hall on the third floor stretching across York Avenue, that will have floor-to-ceiling windows on the east and west sides.

One key component of the convention centre expansion is a seven-storey, 108-room hotel that will be built next door on Edmonton Street.

Lakeview Management says its plans to build the hotel, on a parking lot it already holds, has been in the works regardless of what the convention centre plans would involve.

Lakeview owner Jack Levit said he will build a second hotel nearby if the newly renovated convention centre drives a demand for more rooms.

Will be 4th-largest centre of its kind

The Winnipeg Convention Centre has hosted a number of events, from meetings to trade shows to gala dinners, since the three-storey building opened in 1975 in the city's downtown.

Once completed, the expansion will make it the fourth-largest publicly owned convention centre in Canada, behind facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and St. James-Assiniboia Conservative MP Steven Fletcher were among the approximately 300 people that were on hand for Tuesday's announcement.

The federal, provincial and municipal governments announced in June that they will contribute funding towards the $180-million expansion project.

The federal government has said it will invest $47 million, while the City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba government will each chip in $51 million.