TALENT MAGNET: The Pasadena Civic Auditorium hosted NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2019. (Getty Images)

Pasadena Convention Center and Civic Auditorium keeps the bookings coming

Science, the arts, history: All three figure prominently in the event mix at the Pasadena Convention Center and Civic Auditorium, which hosted 315 events and 375,000 attendees in fiscal 2019, according to Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jeanne Goldschmidt.

In recent years, the bureau has steadily booked “larger and more dynamic groups” into the convention center, which opened in 1972 alongside the venerable Civic Auditorium (1932), Goldschmidt said.

Having a fire-breathing dragon at the Tournament of Roses Parade or a stealth bomber swooping over the Rose Bowl to help advertise Pasadena each New Year’s Day doesn’t hurt, but when it comes to bookings that generate millions of dollars in direct spending at local hotels, restaurants and businesses, it’s a matter of selling event planners on the facility, the hotels and other local amenities, Goldschmidt said.

“I remember waking up on New Year’s Day and seeing the Rose Parade,” she said. “It starts a conversation, but you have to still work for their meetings. You have to have the right size facility and you have to have the right hotel packages.”

To that end, the facility boasts a 55,000-square-foot exhibit hall that can be divided into two sections or combined with an adjacent 25,000-square-foot ballroom; a 17,000-square-foot ballroom at the rear of the Civic Auditorium that underwent a $900,000 renovation and reopened in 2015; a 28,000-square-foot conference center, which underwent a recent $1.9 million renovation and has 18 meeting rooms; and the 3,000-seat Civic Auditorium. 

In recent years, the facility has hosted shows such as “America’s Got Talent” and has held on to nationally televised broadcast shows such as the NAACP Image Awards and the Daytime Emmys, Goldschmidt said.

“We do a little bit of everything here, but we’re finding scientific meetings have been successful. We can leverage our Caltech and our (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) connection. And then we are seeing a lot of these large ‘cons’ like HistoryCon and ChristmasCon,” Goldschmidt said. 

HistoryCon, produced by A&E Networks, will take over the entire facility for three days for its inaugural April 3-5 run, she said. The confab will help mark the network’s 25th anniversary and is billed by its producers as “an immersive event that explores America’s history through interactive exhibits, expert speaker sessions and an expansive marketplace.”

Groups looking at Southern California are often also considering Palm Springs, Long Beach, Anaheim and even some of the smaller convention hotels in downtown Los Angeles, according to Goldschmidt.

“I think we offer a unique value with our destination,” she said. “We have the facilities to host a meeting and make you feel like you are the only one in town. So you’re a big deal when you come here and yet you still feel like you are in a robust, dynamic city.”