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Anaheim Sees the Writing on the Hall, Expands

The Anaheim Convention Center is expanding its exhibit halls to 1 million square feet.

One big reason: its largest show—the Carlsbad-based National Association for Music Merchants—already takes up all the exhibit space and an additional 200,000 square feet.

NAMM’s sheer size — 96,000 attendees and 1,650 exhibitors were expected at this year’s event that ends Jan. 24 — is spread over the 813,000 square feet of exhibit halls and beyond.

“NAMM’s in every nook and cranny,” said Event Services Manager Michelle Henry, the center’s liaison with the show.

The $180 million, bond-funded expansion scheduled to open mid-2017 adds 200,000 square feet and 1,350 parking spaces to the center, which is owned by the city of Anaheim.

The project broke ground last April, driven in large measure by big shows including NAMM and the Natural Products Expo West in March, which last year drew 71,000. The shows were considering other venues before the expansion, according to Anaheim City Council members and tourism group executives.

NAMM draws visitors from more than 100 countries, a spokesperson for the nonprofit said.

The 115-year-old show has been in Anaheim since 1978.

David Meek, convention center manager, said NAMM pays the convention center “close to $1 million” for its space, which it sells to exhibitors.

NAMM charges about $31 a square foot for booth space, according to its website. It said 1,600 companies from 50 foreign countries were expected to be at this year’s show and that about 20 percent were new to the event.

“It’s just massive,” said Meek.


The January 2017 NAMM show is already booked. Meek said the parties are “working on a new four-year deal” that would bring it into the new exhibit halls, and NAMM plans to take advantage of the extra space.

Other shows will also welcome room to grow.

The Natural Products Expo “started as a one-hall show,” Meek said, and grew

7 percent last year to hit 71,000 people, its organizers said. A Mecum Auctions event in late fall brings 20,000 people and needs space for 750 classic and antique cars in exhibit halls.

The added convention center space will mean two medium-sized shows could run concurrently, Meek said.

Until then, there’s a lot of shuffling going on to bring off the really big shows.

Henry, the center’s NAMM liaison, said the event’s organizers “get more creative each year to maximize space.”

Convention center staff even “move out” of their own house to ensure NAMM has enough concrete and carpet for its needs. “We take [our stuff] out of storage and put it in trailers while they’re here so they can use the space,” Meek said.

Paul Hughes is a staff writer for the Orange County Business Journal.


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