Let’s Walk to the Meeting: Walk Score looks at Convention Centers

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a list of the country’s most walkable professional football stadiums according to Walk Score.  My local stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale didn’t fare too well, coming in 21st with a walkscore of just 45.

This week, Walk Score turned it’s focus to convention centers.  This time, Phoenix fared significantly better.  It’s downtown Convention Center ranked 5th, with a score of 94.  This places us ahead of such notable conference destinations  as San Diego (9th-89), New Orleans (15th-80) and Las Vegas (18th-63).

Rank Convention Center City Walk Score
1 The Moscone Center San Francisco, CA 98
1 America’s Center St. Louis, MO 98
3 Reno-Sparks Convention Center Reno, NV 97
4 Salt Palace Convention Center Salt Lake City, UT 95
5 Phoenix Convention Center Phoenix, AZ 94
6 Georgia World Congress Center Atlanta, GA 92
7 The Colorado Convention Center Denver, CO 91
7 Tampa Convention Center Tampa, FL 91
9 San Diego Convention Center San Diego, CA 89
9 Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center San Antonio, TX 89
11 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center New York, NY 88
12 Dallas Convention Center Dallas, TX 83
13 George R. Brown Convention Center Houston, TX 82
13 Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Boston, MA 82
15 New Orleans Morial Convention Center New Orleans, LA 80
15 Sands Expo and Convention Center Las Vegas, NV 80
17 McCormick Place Chicago, IL 69
18 Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas, NV 63
18 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Rosemont, IL 63
20 Orange County Convention Center Orlando, FL 45



This list of convention centers is from Cvent and only includes convention centers with over 650,000 square feet of meeting space.

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Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.

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  • I’ve been to far more conventions than sporting events in my life, so I feel better equipped to comment on this post than the prior one. Although walkscores are imperfect, I think the rankings above correspond pretty well to my real-life experiences. What’s less certain, however, is whether a high walkscore associated with a convention center is a net positive or negative for the city in which it is situated.

    For convention attendees, a high walkscore means the convention center is located in the heart of the city within walking distance of hotels, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, and transit. I can say that I find attending conventions in places like Salt Lake City or Denver far more enjoyable than attending ones in places like Chicago due to the central placement of their convention centers. Even though Chicago might rank as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S., McCormick Place is cut off from the Loop and its attractions. Attending a convention there means endless waits for shuttle buses to and from the hotels.

    The flip side, though, is the impact of centrally-placed convention centers on the Downtown experience of local residents. Convention centers are essentially huge concrete bunkers with minimal street presence. They surge with activity at selected times, but create chasms in between major events. Richard Florida and his fans often decry “nametag-wearing conventioneers” as the antithesis of the creative class that Florida believes cities should atttact. Personally, I find Florida’s ideas somewhat oversimplified and elitist. Nevertheless, convention centers do take up Downtown space in a way that isn’t really all that urban.

    If I were to attempt to reconcile the conflicting perceptions I have, it would be that convention centers have a place Downtown, but they should be designed in a way that they contribute to street life even when no events are scheduled within their walls. That might mean ground floor retail or convention centers below high-rise residential towers. The Phoenix Convention Center is probably better than sun-baked vacant lots, and it’s attractive for a convention center. Still, I think it could have been made more urban in design.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment David. I agree that convention centers are a mixed bag for downtowns. They bring people (and their money) in, but take up a lot of valuable real estate and sit empty for large chunks of time. They also largely ignore the needs of locals.

      As for Phoenix’s center, i don’t find it too obtrusive, as it is on the ‘outskirts’ of downtown (at least how I define it) next to the stadiums and other special event space. I do wish, however, that the food court, etc were directly accessible from the outside (i.e., ringing the building instead of running through the middle of it). This would have better activated the street and sidewalks. As well, it would have allowed the businesses to remain open when there were not conventions in town and service the local business and downtown community.

      As well, it would have been great to have the Sheraton hotel directly connected to/built above the convention center instead of a stand alone building down the street, taking up more space. Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel is a good example of this.

  • I’ve been to far more conventions than sporting events in my life, so I feel better equipped to comment on this post than the prior one. Although walkscores are imperfect, I think the rankings above correspond pretty well to my real-life experiences. What’s less certain, however, is whether a high walkscore associated with a convention center is a net positive or negative for the city in which it is situated.

    For convention attendees, a high walkscore means the convention center is located in the heart of the city within walking distance of hotels, restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, and transit. I can say that I find attending conventions in places like Salt Lake City or Denver far more enjoyable than attending ones in places like Chicago due to the central placement of their convention centers. Even though Chicago might rank as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S., McCormick Place is cut off from the Loop and its attractions. Attending a convention there means endless waits for shuttle buses to and from the hotels.

    The flip side, though, is the impact of centrally-placed convention centers on the Downtown experience of local residents. Convention centers are essentially huge concrete bunkers with minimal street presence. They surge with activity at selected times, but create chasms in between major events. Richard Florida and his fans often decry “nametag-wearing conventioneers” as the antithesis of the creative class that Florida believes cities should atttact. Personally, I find Florida’s ideas somewhat oversimplified and elitist. Nevertheless, convention centers do take up Downtown space in a way that isn’t really all that urban.

    If I were to attempt to reconcile the conflicting perceptions I have, it would be that convention centers have a place Downtown, but they should be designed in a way that they contribute to street life even when no events are scheduled within their walls. That might mean ground floor retail or convention centers below high-rise residential towers. The Phoenix Convention Center is probably better than sun-baked vacant lots, and it’s attractive for a convention center. Still, I think it could have been made more urban in design.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment David. I agree that convention centers are a mixed bag for downtowns. They bring people (and their money) in, but take up a lot of valuable real estate and sit empty for large chunks of time. They also largely ignore the needs of locals.

      As for Phoenix’s center, i don’t find it too obtrusive, as it is on the ‘outskirts’ of downtown (at least how I define it) next to the stadiums and other special event space. I do wish, however, that the food court, etc were directly accessible from the outside (i.e., ringing the building instead of running through the middle of it). This would have better activated the street and sidewalks. As well, it would have allowed the businesses to remain open when there were not conventions in town and service the local business and downtown community.

      As well, it would have been great to have the Sheraton hotel directly connected to/built above the convention center instead of a stand alone building down the street, taking up more space. Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel is a good example of this.