April 25, 2017

Convention Center Renovations Benefit Arnold Sports Festival

An estimated 200,000 people attended the Arnold Sports Festival in early March, with the new Greater Columbus Convention Center renovations playing a major role in its success.

Jim Lorimer, Arnold Sports Festival founder and co-producer, says improvements that included removable wall partitions allowed the event to run four competition stages in an “open-air” format without barriers blocking spectator views.

The Scottish Highland Games, previously staged outdoors, were moved inside during a time of year when the weather can be tricky. Additional events staged within the Convention Center included other strength, fitness and bodybuilding competitions.

Lorimer himself had a bird’s-eye view of the proceedings from the new, second-floor Lorimer Show Manager’s Office, which was announced last October as part of Jim’s  90th birthday celebration.

The Convention Center renovations “gave us the ability to position things a little more effectively in an open air arrangement,” he says. “And the open area permitted us to make things very more accessible to more people. We typically use every square foot of available space at the Convention Center, and this year we were able to secure some additional space, which will be advantageous as we are continually in a growth mode.”

He added that “additional side rooms and meeting rooms in 2018 will allow us to focus a little more on some of the fitness educational aspects of the festival weekend, which we think are going to be very important to the ongoing growth we’re anticipating.”

The Convention Center’s $140 million expansion and renovation will be completed by July.

The Arnold is the Convention Center’s largest annual event. It has grown every year since 1989, when it began as a bodybuilding competition (which then actor and future California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won). It now includes more than 70 sports and events and 20,000 athletes from 80 nations. The festival extends to venues around the city and, according to the city’s marketing organization Experience Columbus, contributes more than $51 million annually to central Ohio’s economy.

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