The Austin Convention Center, or now known as the Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center, is a multi-purpose convention center in Austin, Texas. The building is the Texas Rollergirls home court, previously the Austin Toros basketball team’s home, before moving to Cedar Park Center in nearby Cedar Park in 2010. The convention center is also the primary home base for the internationally renowned South by Southwest technology, a music and film conference/festival held annually every March. In this article, we are going to learn more about the Austin Convention Center.
During the early 1980s, Austin’s civic leaders were concerned that Austin was being looked over as a site for significant conventions because the Palmer Auditorium, the city’s main event facility, was too small. In 1983, the city council of Austin decided to unveil a concept for a $35 million convention center, a part of a $350 million complex of parkland and hotels located on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. The plan did not go well initially because they received resistance from several neighborhood groups that live near the proposed site and downtown business leaders. This caused the city to look for several other sites, and they finally chose a downtown site near Waller Creek. The financing for the said project came from a US$69 million bond sale, and it was approved in July 1898, by referendum. On July 4, 1992, the grand opening ceremony for the convention center took place.
In 2001, the convention center was renovated, and it focused on the expansion of the facility. The renovation nearly doubled the size of the convention center’s original plan from 441,000 square feet to 881,400 square feet. In May 2002, the grand reopening of the Austin Convention Center took place. It featured the enlarged Convention Center’s five exhibit halls with a combined 247,052 square feet of column-free space. Aside from that, they also added two ballrooms, 54 meeting rooms, and this includes one of the largest ballrooms in Texas, which is 40,510 square feet big.
On February 22, 2007, the Austin Convention center became the talk of the town when Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, former NBA player, and Austin Toro’s head coach, Dennis Johnson, had a heart attack outside the convention center, just right after a practice game of the Austin Toros basketball team. Unfortunately, Johnson died later that day.
From Austin Convention Center to Neal Kocurek Memorial Austin Convention Center
In December 2004, the City Council honored civic leader and health care champion Neal Kocurek by changing the Austin Convention Center’s name. The Austin City Council all voted to rename the convention center after Kocurek because he has helped rally community support for constructing a convention center for Austin. Aside from that, Kocurek also worked as the CEO and president of St. David’s Health Care System in Austin. Kocurek died after he suffered a stroke in March 2004.