Many people still think of Pittsburgh as a steel town that’s just a pit stop between Washington, D.C., and the big towns of the Midwest, but’s that’s an outdated perception. Pittsburgh is actually alive and thriving. It has a vibrant cultural district,  three fantastic sports venues, a world class convention center, and hip museums. The tourism industry is a $5.7 billion dollar industry.
“The economic impact that tourism dollars bring into Pittsburgh can not be underestimated, “ said Jason Fulvi, executive VP of VisitPITTSBURGH. “We have 11 million visitors a year and that number keeps growing.”
“Our three major venues — Consol Energy Center, Heinz Field and PNC Park — are all relatively new venues. We also have venues of all sizes, looks and feels,” said Fulvi. “We’ve got amazing assets at our fingertips.”
Pittsburgh may have been built on the back of heavy industry, but it has transformed itself. “We’re going through a perpetual renaissance,” said Fulvi.
Bill Dorsey, founder and chairman of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD), said that he’s delighted to be holding the annual ALSD conference in Pittsburgh this year. “Pittsburgh is highly underrated,” said Dorsey. “It’s one the greatest sports towns in the country. All three sports venues are almost new and all of them have the greatest views no matter what seat you are sitting in. PNC is always refreshing itself. The Steelers’ home, Heinz Field, just built gorgeous end zone suites. Consol Energy Center is a great facility and really getting a workout with the Penguins looking like they will go all the way this year.”
VisitPITTSBURGH is so excited about the strength of the Penguins this year that they have re-named themselves ‘VisitPENSBURGH’ for the duration of the hockey season.
Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is one of the jewels of Pittsburgh. General Manager Gary Desjardins has been with the arena only six months. “I absolutely love it here in Pittsburgh. It’s an electric, incredible environment.” Consol Energy Center is managed by AEG Facilities and has 700 full- and part-time employees.
“Our building is only six years old and in great shape, “ said Desjardins. “We rigorously keep up the maintenance so it looks like it’s brand new. We’re changing the carpeting and making enhancements and we’re are looking at ways to convert some of the nonrevenue areas into space we can use to make new products.” On Desjardins’ agenda is finding “space we can sell that’s in between the club seats, lounge boxes, and regular suites.” He also wants to turn some of the event-level party suites into club/bar areas.
“One of the great things about the Consol Energy Center design is that no matter where you are you can still feel like you are part of the action even if you’re in the concourse behind the seats,” said Desjardins. “And we have some of the most creative food offerings of any arena.” New to the venue is a self-serve beer system that allows customers with an RFID bracelet to touch a screen and select a product.
Across town, Tim Muldoon, general manager of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, is excited to share plans are installing. “We’ve just received approval to create a 50,000-sq.-ft. basic concrete space,” said Muldoon. “The rooftop is going to be something special. From a conventional trade show perspective it will be really unique. It’s just in the design stage and we’re talking with our clients to get feedback before finalizing the plans. It will definitely feature great views of the Allegany River and PNC Park.” 
The space will be turn key and Muldoon is building the space to be multifunctional. “Its uses will run across the board,” said Muldoon. “It will offer our corporate trade show clients a place to host an event and then take advantage of the rooftop. It can be used for everything from opening receptions to closing parties, lunches, local food and beverage events and private parties.”
The space is also being designed with green initiatives in mind. “We are a platinum LEED-certified building,” said Muldoon. “We’re partnering with Carnegie Mellon University and we currently reclaim 80% of the waste water in the facility. Our exhibit hall runs off the cool air from the rivers and we used natural air 126 days last year. It’s good for the environment and it saves us money. We are currently looking at how we can utilize solar, wind and water elements to get to 100% sustainability. One of our top priorities for the rooftop terrace is to incorporate all the things we’ve achieved using green power and take it to the next level.”
The rooftop terrace is scheduled to be completed in 2017. “The rooftop will really be a great addition to our venue,” said Muldoon. “As a destination we see a great opportunity. We’re in the heart of Pittsburgh, between the cultural district and downtown. Our center offers unique, flexible space. It’s the best in the country.
“In a 400-mile radius we have Washington, D.C., and all of the big cities in the Midwest. It’s an easy in-and–out. One of our distinctive features is our retractable roof. It’s rare in a convention center and allows our visitors to be sure their event will go off rain or shine.”
“We’re excited about many things going forward,” said Muldoon. “We’ve got our biggest convention, The Hart Unconventional Energy East, coming at the end of June.  We’re also seeing a lot of potential on the sports side. We’ve got the National Karate Championships and the Hoop Groups Amateur Athletic Union booked and are really pushing the venue as a place for sports.”
“Pittsburgh has really grown from a steel town to a high tech town and we’re excited to be part of the growth,” said Muldoon.
Fulvi also wanted to highlight the cultural side of Pittsburgh and it’s lively downtown scene. “Our cultural district is one of the great stories about Pittsburgh.  We’ve gone from a town funded by the industrialists — Carnegie, Mellon, and Westinghouse — to a town that’s all about small business opportunities. We’ve got 10 and a half blocks in our core downtown filled with superior restaurants and we’ve been voted the #1 foodie city in the whole country. We’ve got nine theaters, opera, the symphony, Broadway imports, and lots of cool places to shop.”
For art lovers, Fulvi highly recommends the Andy Warhol museum. “The Warhol currently has an exhibit of work showcasing the work of controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei,” said Fulvi. “His work was banned in China and this is his first U.S. exhibit. The museum is really proud to be able to expose Ai Weiwei to America.”
There’s also the Carnegie Science Center, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the National Aviary and many other attractions, many of them free.
“Pittsburgh could have gone in a bad direction when the steel industry collapsed,” said Fulvi. “But we’ve turned it around and now have a vibrant and exciting city with a stable economy. Downtown living is in again. We’re the second largest location of Google.  Carnegie Mellon University graduates used to leave the minute they graduated and go start their start-ups somewhere else. But they are staying now and putting down roots in Pittsburgh. I grew up here and can tell you Pittsburgh has really turned itself around.”