The area surrounding the Tampa Convention Center is buzzing with new construction as the 30-year-old facility begins a $30-million improvement plan.

The expansion includes 18 additional meeting rooms and 16,000 square feet of new space along the building’s west side.

“All of them will have a tremendous view of the water,” said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa’s administrator of economic opportunity, who believes some of the biggest changes will be visible from the building’s outside. “You’ll see ribbons of glass. Instead of a blank wall and face, you’re going to see windows and glass.”

Other improvements include the addition of four new restaurants including the all-new Harpoon Harry’s which is under construction now with seating for around 500 people.

“One of the things they’ve asked for are more options and places to eat with food that might reflect our local fare,” McDonaugh said.

The Convention Center is also getting a new Datz Restaurant and a 4 Rivers Smokehouse stand. Outside the Sail Plaza will soon have upgraded amenities along with a new Big Ray’s Fish Camp Restaurant.

“All of this will make us more attractive to the corporate client that would like to come to Florida for a convention,” said McDonaugh.

And perhaps most importantly, downtown Tampa will soon have more space to put all those new visitors with nearly 1000 new hotel rooms coming to downtown. More than half will be in the brand new J.W. Marriott under construction now on the convention center’s east side. The hotel itself will also have new meeting space with 20 new meeting rooms and around 54,000 square feet of event space.

Author: Beau Zimmer