Your San Diego Convention Center

Your San Diego Convention Center's 30th Anniversary History

Your San Diego Convention Center first opened its doors on November 24, 1989. For 30 years, it has been the premier gathering place. Our purpose is to host meetings, conventions, trade shows and events to create economic benefits for the region. We benefit the local economy by reducing the burden on local taxpayers by generating hotel room and sales tax revenues which are used by the City of San Diego to fund necessary services like police, fire, street maintenance, parks and libraries. The benefits generated by the San Diego Convention Center since opening include:;xNLx;;xNLx;Regional Impact: $22.2 billion;;xNLx;Direct Attendee Spending: $13 billion;;xNLx;Tax Revenues: $555.7 million;;xNLx;Hotel Room Nights: 17.6 million;;xNLx;Attendance: 23 million;;xNLx;Events: 5,799

1983-11-01 00:00:00

Convention Center Planned for Waterfront

The Port of San Diego moves forward to fund and construct the San Diego Convention Center on the waterfront of San Diego Bay.

1985-05-22 00:00:00


Groundbreaking ceremonies are held for the facility: Phase I excavation begins.

1988-09-01 00:00:00

First Contract

Tele-Communications Association of America (TCA) signs first event contract for a 1990 event. TCA presents SDCCC with first deposit check of $15,740.

1989-11-24 09:00:00

Doors Open

The 1.7 million square foot San Diego Convention Center opens its doors. More than 200,000 people attend facility open house November 24 - 26.

1989-11-30 09:00:00

First Consumer Show

The first consumer show opens at the San Diego Convention Center: the San Diego International Boat Show.

1990-01-01 19:33:27

San Diego Magazine

Click on "Find out more" to read the San Diego Magazine article from 1990 about the opening of the convention center.

1990-12-31 05:01:18

354 Events in The First Year

A total of 354 events are held the first year of business, representing 1,183 activity days.

1991-07-01 05:01:18

First Comic-Con at SDCC

Comic-Con International is held for the first time in the San Diego Convention Center after moving from the San Diego Civic Center Concourse.

1991-12-31 05:01:18

Second Year of Operation

Second year of operation completed; $125 million in direct spending achieved. Just under one million guests attend 249 events.

1994-06-22 05:01:18

Phase II Expansion Approved

The City and the Port sign an agreement to fund the $140 million Phase II expansion; the Port provides 11 acres of adjacent waterfront property.

1996-08-12 05:01:18

Republican National Convention

More than 30,000 people attend the Republican National Convention, generating $160 million in economic impact for the city.

1997-09-22 05:01:18

Microsoft Conference

Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference and Exchange Conference breaks food & beverage record with gross revenue topping $3.1 million.

1998-01-18 05:01:18

Super Bowl XXXII Media Center

The San Diego Convention Center hosts the Super Bowl XXXII Media Center. Nearly 3,500 national and international media attend and occupy 50,000 square feet in Exhibit Hall A.

1998-03-01 03:47:36

Voters Approve Expansion

Voters approve expanding the San Diego Convention Center project on San Diego Bay’s waterfront. Measure A passes by a 62 percent majority.

1998-06-19 05:01:18

Phase II Groundbreaking

Phase II expansion groundbreaking takes place. As a result, three new clients come to San Diego: the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society, American Society of Hematology and American Library Association.

1999-02-25 05:45:02

SDCC Named one Top Three Convention Centers In The World

San Diego is named one of the top three convention centers in the world by industry trade publication, Meetings and Incentive Travel Magazine.

1999-02-28 00:00:00

Phase II- First shipment of steel

The first shipment of steel arrives for the Phase II expansion. The ship contains 6 million pounds (300 tons) of fabricated structural steel.

2000-05-17 00:00:00

Sails Pavilion Enhancement Project

Grand opening of the Sails Pavilion enhancement project. The area is glass enclosed and features an industry-standard trade show floor and state of the art heating, cooling and lighting systems.

2000-10-31 17:35:32

Flame of Friendship

Artist Leonardo Nierman’s “Flame of Friendship” sculpture is given to San Diego by Mexico. The 20-foot tall stylized flame sits at the steps of the amphitheater overlooking San Diego Bay.

2000-11-01 17:35:32

Coming Together

“Coming Together,” a 28-foot ceramic and glass mosaic sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Niki de Sainte Phalle, is selected as the public artwork for the expansion’s new Plaza Park.

2001-06-01 17:35:32

10th Anniversary Time Capsule

Logan and Perkins Elementary School students gather in Plaza Park to seal 10th anniversary time capsule, which remains buried today.

2001-09-17 17:35:32

September 11

The San Diego Convention Center expansion grand opening celebration is postponed due to the tragic terrorist attacks that took place on September 11.

2001-11-01 17:35:32

Grand Opening

The public, elected officials and stakeholders attend the expansion grand opening. A day later, the first convention is held in the expanded exhibit hall: the Society for Neuroscience.

2003-01-15 17:35:32

Super Bowl XXXVII Media Center

The NFL utilizes the Convention Center as the official media center during Super Bowl XXXVII. The facility is also used to host corporate and public events.

2003-03-29 17:35:32

Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune was filmed in Halls F, G & H for three days. A total of 10,000 San Diegans came to see Pat Sajak and Vanna White in person.

2004-01-01 17:35:32

15th Anniversary

The convention center celebrates 15 years of accomplishments during an anniversary event: $10.9 billion in economic impact; $227 million in tax revenues; 10 million visitors and 3,000 events.

2005-11-01 17:35:32

Workplace Excellence Award

The convention center wins a workplace excellence award and is recognized as one of the region’s “Great Places to Work” by the San Diego Society for Human Resource Management.

2006-12-30 17:35:32

Attendance Record

The convention center breaks annual attendance records when more than one million attendees visit this year. The milestone is set during the auto show.

2008-12-01 17:35:32

Revenue Record

The convention center shatters all previous records, generating $1.8 billion in economic impact and $751 million in direct attendee spending.

2009-06-01 17:35:32

Excellence Award

The convention center receives a national Inner Circle Award from Association Meetings for excellence in service, flexible meeting space and high quality food & beverage.

2009-11-01 17:12:30

Technology Heroes

Named a “Tech Hero” by Technology Training Foundation of America, our donations have kept eight million pounds of e-waste from landfills.

2011-06-01 14:59:45

LEED Silver Certification

The convention center receives Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

2013-12-01 23:20:44

Community Partners

Food donations from the convention center and Centerplate to their community partner, the San Diego Rescue Mission, add up to 1.13 million lbs. or 565 tons.

2014-11-07 23:20:44

#SDCCat25: The Center for All Celebration

To celebrate its own 25th anniversary, the convention center held a community fundraiser luncheon on Nov. 7, 2014, raising $50,000 for the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s “Make Change Count” program. The program provides assistance to the homeless population in downtown San Diego. Click "find out more" to see the event pictures.

2014-11-24 02:38:22

San Diego Convention Center at 25: A Look Back

Employees of the San Diego Convention Center share stories about the construction of the facility and the first days it opened for business.

2015-09-30 02:38:22

A New Logo

The building's iconic architecture inspired a new logo for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, which was officially adopted in September 2015.

2015-10-21 02:38:22

Carol Wallace Announces Her Retirement

After nearly 25 years of service to the San Diego Convention Center, President & CEO Carol Wallace announced her retirement on December 31, 2015.

2016-02-26 02:38:22

Rippetoe Selected to Lead Convention Center Corporation

Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, a convention and meeting industry veteran, is selected to take the helm as President & CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation.

2016-06-28 02:30:23

California IBank Funding Plan for Capital Improvements Gets Approval

The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) Board of Directors gave the final approval to go into contract with the City of San Diego and the San Diego Convention Center Corporation for the financing of $25.5 million in capital improvement projects. Eight projects were funded, including the replacement of the iconic Sails Pavilion's fabric roof.

2016-07-08 02:38:22

San Diego Hosts MLB All-Star FanFest

The convention center hosted the 26th annual MLB All-Star FanFest. The event drew an estimated 100,000 attendees and was truly a celebration of baseball and the community.

2016-12-08 22:48:30

Infrastructure Renovations Begin

The convention center launched the largest series of upgrades in the building's history. This includes the iconic Sails Pavilion and additional projects like modernizing escalators, installing new cooling towers and replacing the fire safety system.

2016-12-29 22:48:30

Convention Center Unveils LED Upgrades in Exhibit Halls

The Convention Center replaced 10,282 fluorescent fixtures with LED fixtures in the entire 525,701 sq. ft. exhibit hall. The public's first chance to see these brand new LEDs in action was during the San Diego International Auto Show.

2017-03-09 22:48:30

Sails Pavilion Concrete Floor Replacement Completed

The convention center completed a major capital infrastructure project inside the Sails Pavilion: the installation of a new concrete floor. We recycled 5.3 million pounds of concrete; that's equal to the weight of seven fully-loaded Boeing 747s.

2017-04-19 22:48:30

LEED Gold Building Certification

The convention center receives Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Mayor Kevin Faulconer declares April 19 "San Diego Convention Center Excellence in Sustainability Day."

2018-02-01 05:15:29

Sails Pavilion Roof Replacement

The renovation of our 90,000 square-foot Sails Pavilion is completed after six-months of active construction in the exhibit space.

2018-02-21 22:48:30

Sails Pavilion Lights

On February 21, 2018, the San Diego Convention Center debuted its newest feature: LED colored lights that illuminate the newly renovated iconic fabric roof. The lights change colors and can be visible across the waterfront: from the Gaslamp Quarter to Coronado Bay, and especially to visitors flying in over downtown. The light fixtures are the same as those used to light the Empire State Building in New York City.

2018-04-01 05:15:29

Sustainability Certification

The facility achieves Level Three certification to the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards. This certification was tailor-made for the meeting and events industry. It created specific performance criteria in staff management policy, communications, waste management, energy, air quality, water, procurement, and community partners. Level Three is a significant achievement for convention centers in our industry.

2018-08-01 05:15:29

Yoga Under the Sails

The first-ever free community yoga event is held in the Sails Pavilion. It's a new way to engage the San Diego community.

2018-10-01 05:15:29

Best in the West Award

The San Diego Convention Center wins the Gold Award for Best Convention Center in the Western United States by the 2018 Prevue Visionary Awards.

2019-04-15 05:15:29

Convention Center Ballot Measure Moved to March 2020

The City Council voted 5-4 to hold a citywide vote on raising hotel taxes eight months earlier than previously anticipated – the March 2020 primary instead of the November 2020 general election. San Diego voters will decide next March whether to raise hotel taxes to expand the waterfront convention center and provide many millions for local homelessness programs and street repair.

Your San Diego Convention Center

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