As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we take a look back through our portfolio. This month we focus on the Springfield Expo Center, which has been a catalyst in the development of the Jordan Valley area and downtown Springfield since 2003.
Springfield had long coveted an exhibit hall downtown that could lure larger groups than what the aging University Plaza Trade Center could handle. A downtown exhibit hall was considered key to reviving a sagging city sales tax rate, as it would draw new and bigger trade shows and meetings that bypassed Springfield for larger facilities in Kansas City or St. Louis.
The University Plaza Trade Center previously occupied the site of the Springfield Expo Center. The Expo Center was part of a plan to reinvigorate the Jordan Valley area.
Opportunity arrived when Missouri officials allowed taxpayer dollars to build an expo center in hopes of creating an economically vibrant downtown. The Center was part of a $150 million plan to reinvigorate the Jordan Valley area with the construction of the Jordan Valley Ice Park, Hammons Baseball Field and parking garage close to the proposed expo center.
Ultimately BR&P’s experience with these types of facilities and the City’s desire for local involvement led to BR&P’s selection as part of the design team.
“At the time, another local firm, in conjunction with a national arena architect, was designing the arena to be on the empty lot next door. We worked in conjunction with the City and those firms for a cohesively designed project to connect and flow together. Likewise, another design team was also coordinating the parking garage project. All this was on the heels of the recently opened Jordan Valley Ice Park, adding to the momentum of the overall Park development,” explains David Hess, BR&P Partner & Architect.
At the groundbreaking in 2002, then-Mayor Tom Carlson said of the expo, “It’s going to take our city to the next level in attracting conventions and shows. It will have a significant impact on the ongoing center city revitalization project and the overall Jordan Valley project.” (Keyes, 2002, Springfield News Leader)
In September 2003, the Expo Center opened, with the Springfield Industrial Expo being the first show held in the new building. “The visitors showed that if you build it, they will come. And if you build it downtown, they will shop and eat at downtown businesses.” (Jurado, 2003, Springfield News Leader)
The Springfield Expo Center provides 172,000 sq. ft. of event space. The main building features a 92,000 sq. ft. building with a 45,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall divisible into three sections. A two-level pre-function area connects the expo floor and the two levels of the existing trade center to the west. The exterior materials consist of precast concrete, natural limestone and glass.
Connecting to the Expo Center is a former department store building which comprises just over 80,000 sq. ft. on two levels. The interior of the building was gutted to the building’s structure, perimeter walls and roof, then renovated to provide approximately 50,000 sq. ft. of additional exposition space. The exterior masonry was also completely restored, and a new south façade constructed, linking it with the Expo Center.
Looking back on the project, David enjoyed working with the entire design team and city representatives. “All involved were passionate about the project, down to the smallest details, including the signage design to make it a successful project for the City.” Another favorite aspect of the project was how the team integrated references of the regional geography into the floor patterns of the carpet, the colored concrete as well as the custom artwork. “But the curved and sloping limestone facade is the signature design element,” says David.
Today, the expo continues to be utilized for local and regional events, drawing in visitors from near and far, bringing revenue to the city as visitors stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and shop at local retailers. For David, this project is special because, “working in the hospitality market, most of my projects are located throughout the United States. It’s nice to have a local project that I can point to as one I designed.”