Last Wednesday, 500 or so local meeting planners, corporate execs, vendors, and a few fortunate meetings journalists got an early look at the new Cincinnati Convention Center. Cinergy Center (www.cincycenter.com) hosted a Meetings Expo to show off some of the nation’s newest and most dramatic meeting and event space. The event’s keynote, Cincinnati Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis, provided some good laughs and insights into the NFL draft. He also emphasized that the Expo brought together people who will be key to filling the new exhibit floors, conference rooms, and ballrooms when everything opens June 22—and that Cincinnati is counting on them.

The Greater Cincinnati CVB is calling the Cinergy Center “expanded and renovated.” That term may be technically correct, but in reality, everything is new here. How many venues shut down for two years for renovation and expansion? Most keep booking meetings and, with the aid of a herd of sawhorses, duct tape, and caution signs, they keep attendees flowing in and focus on daily business. Cinergy Center decided it could not host meetings and do a really top-notch job of creating a new convention center, so it went black.

That’s risky. But with conventions diverted, designers, architects, and contractors went to work. The new center is a delight of light and space and color. Emphasize color—which not only makes the center irresistible, but helps attendees navigate the three-story edifice. Ideal convention sizes are one or two groups with 3,000 to 4,500 people. Yes, the center can handle simultaneous conventions! Military and agricultural trade shows with huge exhibits will appreciate large loading docks, especially one with 25-foot doors. Best of all, Cinergy Center is right downtown in the midst of Cincinnati’s shopping, restaurants, art and cultural offerings, sports stadiums, and hotels. The largest of the convention hotels is the Millennium Complex with skywalks to the center. The 872-room Millennium, as well as being a high-end location, is an affordable headquarters for groups (is there anything as ideal as 872 guest rooms, more than 400 of which are double-doubles?). For more information, visit www.cincyusa.com.