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Cleveland prepares to host 'Super Bowl' of meetings

Posted at 4:25 PM, Jun 13, 2024

CLEVELAND — Over the last eight years, Cleveland has hosted some major events: the NFL Draft, the Republican National Convention, the NBA and MLB All-Star Games, to name a few and come this August, we will add to that list with the ASAE Convention.

"I don't know what that is," said one Clevelander we stopped on East 4th. "I'm not sure what that is," replied another.

Well, ASAE is the American Society of Association Executives; if you haven't heard of them, that's OK; the important thing to know is the long-term impact of their visit.

"We are the association for associations," said ASAE President and CEO Michelle Mason. "An umbrella organization representing individuals and organizations that practice association management to serve their industries and sectors."

Simply put, ASAE is essentially a convention of convention planners. Many of them have never been to Cleveland before if they like what they see while they're here, they're coming back with a few thousand friends.

"We know that at least 20% of our attendees will return and bring a meeting within a period of five years, so that's very important to know," said Mason.

And those meetings will bring to Cleveland anywhere from $200 million to a half billion dollars in new economic activity. That's why it's literally called the Super Bowl of meetings. So why Cleveland?

"Well what appealed to us is that Cleveland is definitely a growth city. We see that in the economic development, we see that in the improvements with the convention center and also including your hotel package," she said.

All of these were keys in landing the RNC in 2016 and our successfully pulling it off was also a factor in ASAE's decision.

"Oh absolutely, we know that Cleveland is a convention city and you have that experience so hosting those larger meetings we knew we would be a good fit."

Another factor she mentioned is the convention center, which will debut at the ASAE and its massive expansion into the old Global Center for Health Innovation. It's a project that adds sought-after meeting space while doubling the size of the first-floor ballroom and creating a stunning rooftop terrace above.

"Everything's still on time we're actually under budget right now," said Huntington Convention Center General Manager Ron King. "So what that's allowed us to do is add even more sellable features to the renovation. That's going to expand our timeline a little bit, so now we're planning on getting finished around the middle of July we should be totally complete by that time."

Even ahead of the ASAE Convention, the fact they're coming, he said is already paying off.

"Just as it is now we've already booked it 50 times into the future. So it's been a very popular space. I'm sure once ASAE comes and once we're able to actually open it and do tours with it, those bookings we'll go up even more."

ASAE has over 50,000 individual members and about 1,800 organizational members. More than 5,500 members are expected to attend the convention, which will be held August 10 to 13. The direct economic impact of the convention alone that week is expected to be between $15 million and $18 million.