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Irving Convention Center Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

Photo provided by the Irving Convention Center

Irving – Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made any sort of celebration whether anniversaries, birthdays, engagements or weddings, a bit strange given the circumstances.

However, the Irving Convention Center (ICC), which celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Jan. 27, is one milestone worth commemorating.

“The Irving Convention Center has an interesting story, and over the years the facility has become a truly iconic structure,” Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said. “For the past decade, the Convention Center has been part of many memories and stories for people, from weddings to graduations. I appreciate the vision and tenacity of Irving leaders who worked to ensure the idea for a multi-purpose venue in our community would come to fruition.”

For Maura Gast, executive director of Visit Irving, it is hard to fathom the ICC turning 10.

“It is in some ways hard to believe it’s been 10 years,” Gast said. “Then after a year like the one we’ve just been through, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years. I always say a COVID month is equal to a dog year.

“I am as filled with pride today as I was 10 years ago when we opened the doors. The building still is in incredible shape. It’s been well taken care of. All of us who work there consider it our other home, and I think you see that in the people who work there in how they take great pride and ownership in being there and making sure it looks good and is well cared for.”

Sitting on 40 acres, the Convention Center features nearly 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

Over the past decade, ICC has hosted numerous events with current annual fixtures including Dallas Fan Days, a celebration of pop culture; the Las Colinas Bridal Show, and ZestFest, a celebration of spicy food.

Lifelong Irving resident Mark Zeske was elected to city council Place 3 last fall, and he considers the Convention Center a true local gem.

“It is used for so many different things. I personally have been to TicketStock, a golf exhibit, a focus group on SUVs, and a University of Dallas ministry conference,” Zeske said. “The annual events I go to include the Irving ISD Learn to Inspire, the Irving Public Library North Texas Teen Festival, and City of Irving banquets and ceremonies. It’s a great space.”

With the opening of Toyota Music Factory in 2017 and the Westin Convention Center Hotel in 2019, the entire area has become replete with activity, offering plenty of entertainment options like live music, movies, and a full range of restaurants to suit all palates.

“The vision of a convention center and eventually an entertainment venue that we now have in the Toyota Music Center not only shows a vision of timeliness, but a vision well beyond any of the other venues in North Texas,” Irving councilman Al Zapanta said.

The vision Zapanta speaks of combined the Convention Center with an entertainment district in Las Colinas.

Irving has more hotel rooms than Fort Worth. Because of DFW Airport, we have a great industry in hotels,” Irving councilman John Danish, a lifelong resident, said. “The Convention Center’s aligned with the Music Factory allows people to have a work/play experience when they go to a convention. That is why it was important to get built.”

Due to the pandemic, the Convention Center is not hosting its normal number of events.

Even as COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out and administered in Texas and around the country, uncertainty continues to abound in the convention industry, because no one knows what tomorrow, next week or the rest of 2021 will hold in store.

“I think the next 12-18 months are going to be bumpy for all of us, the hotels and the Convention Center, not just in Irving but everywhere,” Gast said. “The things that happen when you get you get your colleagues in the same place physically, and you’re brainstorming, and inspiration and ideas collide, that’s the stuff that doesn’t work in a chat box.

“That stuff happens when humans interact with each other. It’s very hard to build and sustain a client relationship remotely. When you’re at a convention, trade show or a meeting, it’s those chance encounters in the elevator or on the bus on the way to the opening reception or on the trade show floor that you make a connection and find a way to do business with people. It can work. It just doesn’t work as well in a digital environment.”

One pandemic-related silver lining is that hosting fewer events has allowed ICC staff to start and finish several projects to improve the facility, like changing out lighting in the Grand Ballroom, a process which takes several months and is almost impossible to find time to do when the facility is running on a normal schedule.

“People want to be with people. Even introverts through all this time are kind of tired of their own company,” Gast said. “People are going to be slow coming back. People are going to be hesitant about being in a different place. I think as more people are vaccinated, as transmission rates start to go down, not just locally but around DFW, the state, the country and the world, then we’ll start to see business come back. Business will be changed. All of it will be changed forever. Now, we have got to accept that for a good while longer masks are going to be a fact of life.”