The Oregon Convention Center has emerged from a 14-month renovation looking, contractors hope, a little more like Oregon.
The carpets, black and grey with green splotches, are meant to resemble lichen. Staff say the new ballroom ceiling takes its inspiration from the forest. And the wooden slats on the ceiling create a topographical map of the Cascade mountain range.
The design changes, unveiled to community members Monday afternoon, are part of a $40 million renovation that Convention Center leaders hope will boost Portland’s image as a top-notch meeting destination.
“We spent a lot of time in convention centers,” said Craig Stroud, the center’s executive director. “Usually, when you're in them, you feel like you could be in any convention center across the United States. We wanted to change that. We wanted people in the Oregon Convention Center to know they’re in Oregon.”
The renovation included the creation of a new “connector,” which links the center’s original building with the newer addition. An expanded plaza has the potential to be turned into an amphitheater that could fit about 1,000 people. State of the art lighting and sound equipment has been tucked into the walls.
Stroud said the center was badly in need of a facelift as the 90’s-era interior space was no longer “modern and crisp.” Plus, the nearly-completed Hyatt Regency Portland, the city’s first convention center hotel, will soon open one block to the north, giving the center a new batch of visitors to impress.
“Portland as a destination has really grown nationally in the last decade or so,” Stroud said. “So we’re a known destination, people are curious about coming here, and we really need the infrastructure to support and make that happen."