One of the groups that took particular notice was the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which, formed by the Georgia General Assembly in 1980, had essentially been inactive until the late 1980s. It was then that the Authority conducted a feasibility study showing the economic viability for a convention center and a performing arts center in Cobb County. The Olympic announcement helped set the wheels in motion.
That the authority built a convention center to complement its growing business environment is one thing, but to have it exceed expectations was an added bonus. "The original feasibility study indicated the Centre would not break even until year five," said Michele Swann, GM and CEO of the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority. "In fact, we were profitable the very first year - and every year since."
Today, the Cobb Galleria Centre sits on 88 acres in the Galleria complex, which is adjacent to the Galleria Specialty Shops and connected to the four-star, four-diamond Renaissance Waverly Hotel. Conventioneers can make their way to and from the Centre thanks to its pedestrian sky-bridge connecting it with Cumberland Mall and Sheraton Suites Galleria Hotel.
In the 20 years since the doors opened on the Centre, there have been varying reasons why it continues to be a draw for local and national conventions, and trade shows alike. “It is the right size for the many events we host,” said Swann, who has worked in public venue management for more than 30 years before joining the Centre in 1995.
“They (the conventioneers) can be the big fish in our pond,” she said. “The other driving factor is our location. It can be a real asset, both in terms of accessibility to the interstate and walk-ability once you’re here. The extremely positive customer experience is what keeps our clients coming back year after year. More than 60 percent of our business is repeat business.”
One of the key factors in the continued success over the years has been the Centre’s relationship with the Cobb community. Swann credits the valued partnerships it shares with surrounding hotels, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cobb Travel & Tourism, the Cumberland CID and the Galleria Office Park, to name some.
“They all have been wonderful supporters of us, our clients and guests,” Swann said. “We have all worked together to make this area an ideal convention destination.”
Those relationships can be seen in the Centre’s destination as a gathering place for varying fundraisers, community events and public shows such as the Cobb Chamber Annual Dinner, the National Model Railroad Association and the American Cancer Society’s Swordsman’s Ball, among others.
All told, the Cobb Galleria Centre hosts more than 600 events annually. Some of its biggest clients include the Atlanta Shoe Market, Anime Weekend, the Georgia Society of CPAs and the Atlanta Home Show. Over the past 20 years, the Centre has hosted 19,482 events and 9.7 million guests. That translates into $2.6 billion for Cobb County and the state of Georgia. For 2014, the Centre anticipates 6-percent revenue growth over 2013.
“It’s all about the economic impact,” Swann said. “We are proud to be one of the major economic engines driving the hospitality community in Cobb. Each year the Cobb Galleria Centre is responsible for sustaining 1,070 jobs and generating $6 million in new tax dollars. Business is good and getting stronger. We are not quite back to the boom years that peaked in 2008, but overall the industry is rebounding.”
Bring on the Braves
The news hit like a cyclone: The Atlanta Braves would be leaving their home in downtown Atlanta and build a new stadium and adjoining retail development center in Cobb County.
Having the new Braves stadium is another complement to the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority’s original vision. “It will help put our destination on the map,” Swann says. “This not only means that potential clients will know who we are, it also means they will be more likely to choose us because a Braves game will make a perfect off-site activity. The additional shopping, restaurants and hotels coming to the area will also make the area more vibrant and attractive to potential clients.”
Holly Bass, CEO of Cobb Travel & Tourism, believes the new stadium and everything surrounding it is a real game changer for area’s travel and leisure industry, which already is the county’s largest economic driver, pulling in $2.18 billion annually and employing some 31,000 people.
“The Atlanta Braves reach a fan base that spans across the entire southeast,” Bass said. “This falls perfectly in line with our target market. Our goal is to work in partnership with the Braves to proactively market Cobb County as a preferred travel destination among planners of conventions, trade shows and special events, as well as leisure travelers. We will work to highlight the Braves and all of our assets throughout the county by packaging them together to showcase our dynamic community.”
The Braves’ announcement is perfect timing for the Centre’s future plans. It is in the process of completing the third part of its three-year renovation process, which has included new carpet and wall coverings throughout the entire 320,000 square foot facility, renovated restrooms, a new roof, new HVAC and lighting upgrades.
“We will continue to invest in our community asset,” Swann said. “Even though we’re 20 years old, we want to look as good, or better, than the day we opened. Not only can the community be proud of our facility, the investment in our infrastructure helps us to remain competitive in the industry.”