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Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market weighs a future outside downtown

The Duke Energy Convention Center is preparing to close for major renovations
Holiday market.jpg
Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 09, 2023

CINCINNATI — The Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market is back downtown this weekend — but it might be the last year it’s held at this location.

The Duke Energy Convention Center is preparing to shut down for 18 months to undergo major renovations. Tourism officials say those renovations are necessary for the site’s success in the future.

“There's hundreds of employees that are affected,” said Tom Baugh, CEO and vice chair of Marketplace Events, which oversees the holiday market. “Then you multiply that times the six major consumer shows, to say nothing on the smaller ones.”

Baugh said the closure will mean vendors’ businesses will essentially “get hit by a bus.”

The convention center will close starting July 1, 2024 through December 2025, according to Julie Calvert, president and CEO of Visit Cincy.

“We've been in a cycle of renovating this convention center every 20 years since 1965,” said 3CDC Executive Vice President Adam Gelter in March. “We need to break that cycle and do a modernization of this center that addresses it holistically.”

Plans call for upgrading the building’s exterior design, updating and extending exhibit hall space and making major improvements to building systems.

“Without it, we essentially are out of the citywide convention business,” Calvert said.

Calvert said the renovations will lead to more businesses in the area, including restaurants, entertainment options and small businesses.

Calvert said 3CDC is working hard to try and ensure the convention center can open in time to host the market in 2025.

Baugh said he disagrees with the complete shutdown and wishes renovations would have moved forward in phases to allow shows to continue to use the space.

“It's very difficult when you think about the fact that there are 400 companies on the floor and that most of these companies earn a huge proportion of their annual revenue from the show,” he said.

Calvert said doing renovations in phases would have doubled the process time, and would have forced shows to operate in “an active construction zone.”

The city offered the market financial assistance to offset any losses from the closure: a 10% rent discount on 2024 consumer showers and a 25% rent discount for 2026 consumer shows.

A representative from the market said the offer does nothing to address the “significant financial loss the vendors would be facing.”

Baugh said the company has “every intention” of producing the show in 2024, and is looking at suburban venues in the Cincinnati area.

“We're absolutely planning on producing the show in ’24 and beyond but not here,” he said.

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