Inside Downtown St. Louis’ Evolution Into a Tourism Hub

As Downtown St. Louis has steadily built momentum over the past decade, the region has seen an uptick in tourists — and the future is looking even brighter.

In 2020, Downtown St. Louis will feature the NHL All-Star Game and the Olympic gymnastics trials, both at Enterprise Center. Just a few blocks away, the soon-to-be-expanded America’s Center will host dozens of national conventions. What’s more, new hotels are popping up left and right across Downtown.

There’s no shortage of events, announcements and construction projects to keep track of. Here are some of the highlights that are defining Downtown’s transformation into a tourism hub.

America’s Center Anticipates Nine-Figure Expansion

America’s Center hosts approximately 100 events annually, bringing in more than a half-million attendees, 300,000 hotel room nights, and $265 million of new direct economic spending for the community. However, the “AC Next Gen Project” (approved in April 2019) is expected to make those numbers surge.

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, the $175 million expansion and renovation of America’s Center is expected to increase hotel demand in St. Louis by 40 percent. Highlights of the modernization project include:

  • 92,000 square feet of new exhibit space
  • A 65,000-square-foot multi-purpose ballroom
  • Refurbishment of the central Washington Avenue entrance

Upon completion, these enhancements are expected to increase event bookings and potentially create up to 36 percent growth, according to the most recent estimates by Johnson Consulting. Most importantly, the renovations will enable Downtown St. Louis to compete with peer cities such as Nashville and San Antonio, both of which have recently revamped convention centers.

Hotel Development Surges In Downtown

In order to lay the proper foundation for the future of Downtown tourism, the region needs more than just spaces to host events — it needs space to house attendees.

As if the cranes weren’t evidence enough, in recent months several new hotel developments — 13 to be exact — have popped up across the St. Louis City skyline. According to Fox2Now, the total investment in these 13 developments is worth about $750 million. A handful of these new hotels are (or will be) in Downtown.

The Last Hotel

Having opened on July 1st of 2019, The Last Hotel is Downtown’s newest hotel. The 10-story facility occupies the former International Shoe Co. headquarters at 1501 Washington Ave. All 142 suites feature a different style and story to create a one-of-a-kind experience each time you visit. In addition to an exquisite dining experience, The Last Hotel also offers six boardrooms, two ballrooms, and a soon-to-be star screening room, priming it to be a hotspot for high-profile events and conferences.

Hotel Saint Louis

A homage to our hometown, Hotel Saint Louis is a 140-room luxury hotel that marries today’s modern pleasures to the timeless features of the 120+ year old Union Trust Building. Located at the corner of Olive and 7th Streets, this place oozes St. Louis pride. Between its flagship restaurant—Union 30—a rooftop bar and pool, full-service spa, and breathtaking views, what’s not for visitors to love?

Moxy Hotel

The Moxy Hotel is currently being constructed at the corner of Olive and 11th Streets. The boutique hotel will feature an energizing streetscape and a modern exterior consisting of white brick and a neon pink sign with matching accent lights. Located in the heart of Downtown, the Moxy Hotel will be ideal for business travelers and tourists alike, and its 5,800 square feet of the lobby and public amenity space offer plenty of event space. This unique, 154-room hotel is poised to be a mainstay for tourists of all types upon opening in 2020.

Historic Shell Building to Become Budget-Friendly Hotel

The Shell building, which rounds the corner of Locust and 13th streets, is soon to be home to a new Home2 Suites/Tru Hotel by Hilton. This extended-stay hotel will offer a more budget-friendly option for Downtown visitors compared to its luxury hotel counterparts. The $43.2 million development will yield 191 hotel rooms and 2,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. According to St. Louis Business Journal, construction will kick off in the spring of 2020.

Enterprise Center Eyes Expansion

Prior to the 2018-19 NHL season, Enterprise Center underwent numerous renovations including brand new gathering spaces, restaurants, and premium areas. These improvements must have been good luck, considering the Blues’ historic Stanley Cup Championship.

But the progress isn’t stopping in 2019.

In May, Missouri lawmakers approved funding to help cover ongoing upgrades to Downtown’s entertainment epicenter. The legislation will allow funding, which could total $70 million, to be allocated over 20 years beginning in fiscal year 2022.

An executive from the St. Louis Sports Commission told lawmakers earlier this year that the improvements are aimed at attracting more special events to Downtown St. Louis, such as college sports tournaments.

Blues President and CEO of Business Operations Chris Zimmerman noted earlier this summer that the funding plan provides the “final piece” to complete a restoration that will make the Enterprise Center “second to none in competing for and earning events that will make a significant difference to our city, community and state.”

Putting It All Together

Make no mistake: The simultaneous alignment of these pieces is no coincidence. They are in fact a calculated, deliberate effort to solidify Downtown St. Louis as a global tourism hub — and we are witnesses to the results.

About the author

Dominic Vaiana

Dominic Vaiana is a writer in St. Louis.


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