The Los Angeles Convention Center Celebrates the First 50 Years
Nov 16, 2022
July 2021 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
For 50 years we’ve served as a gathering place for communities near and far, big and small. For 50 years, we’ve been a major economic driver for the city of Los Angeles and a prominent part of the DTLA landscape. And for 50 years, we’ve enabled people, communities and thought-leaders to come together to celebrate and entertain, buy and sell, educate, network, compete, and even become U.S. citizens. Each and every event has contributed to the Convention Center’s vibrant history.
Initial Planning, Construction, Expansion
In 1969, under the jurisdiction of the city's Department of Recreation & Parks, construction for the new Los Angeles Convention Center began on 35 acres of cleared land in the southwest corner of DTLA. West Hall, originally named Yorty Hall after Mayor Sam Yorty, was the first to be built. On July 11, 1971, the facility officially opened, ushering in a new era for events in Los Angeles.
- The LACC became an independent city entity, known as the Municipal Auditorium Department (MAD) in 1971. In 1991, MAD was renamed the Los Angeles Convention Center Department.
- The facility originally featured a 210,000 square foot exhibit hall and a 21,000 square foot special events hall.
- The 99,500 square foot North Hall was added in 1981.
- A massive tornado hit West Hall in 1983, tearing off one-third of the roof and damaging the south face of the building. LACC successfully completed the repairs without canceling a single event.
- South Hall was added in 1993 with an additional 347,000 square feet of exhibit space. The expansion was designed by world-renowned I.M. Pei & Partners & Gruen Associates.
- The newly expanded center features major works of art made possible through an art-in-architecture grant. Artist works include Alexis Smith’s terrazzo maps on the floors of the West and South Lobby Towers and Matt Mullican’s etched panels along the Concourse walkway.
- In 1995, the area in front of West Hall was renamed Gilbert Lindsay Plaza in honor of the late 9th District Councilmember.
- The dual-purpose Kentia Hall, located directly below South Hall, was completed in 1997, adding an additional 162,000 square feet of exhibit space (or room for 415 parked cars).
- North Hall was demolished in 1998 to make room for the Staples Center.
- In 2001, LADWP completed the installation of 3,400 solar panels on the Cherry Street parking structure. The project makes the LACC the largest solar energy generating building in North America.
- In 2008, the LACC became the largest US convention center to achieve LEED-EB O&M Gold Certification.
- L.A. Live opened in 2010, creating a vibrant DTLA entertainment district comprised of the LACC, the Staples Center and L.A. Live.
- In 2013, LACC transitioned to private management with AEG Facilities becoming the center’s first private operator. AEG Facilities merged with SMG in 2019 to create ASM Global, now the Center operator.
- In 2018, a 2.21 megawatt solar array was installed on the roof of South Hall, equating to 17% of the LACC’s annual energy usage. At the time it was the largest solar array on a municipally owned convention center.
Events Throughout the Years
The Los Angeles Convention Center has hosted thousands of events in its first 50 years. These range from massive citywide conventions to small community gatherings and everything in between. The facility has been called home to world-renowned trade shows, conventions, consumer shows, meetings and assemblies. We have also been transformed into a press center, pop-up museum, filming location, and courtroom, just to name a few. We share some notable events below.
- The California Gift Show was the first event to take place at the newly opened LACC in 1971, quickly followed by the Southern California Boat Show and WESTEC.
- Ski Dazzle has been the longest running annual show at the LACC, having hosted their first event here in 1971.
- In 1977, LACC welcomed the LA Auto Show and the show has been at the facility ever since.
- Also in 1977, the Soviet National Exhibition brought 310,000 visitors and hundreds of anti-communist protestors to LACC. Exhibits included the Soyuz spacecraft. According to an LACC audit, all of the Center’s vacuum cleaners “defected” at the close of the expo.
- President Jimmy Carter visited the Los Angeles Convention Center in 1977. From a podium in Yorty Hall, President Carter spoke to a delegation of 5,000 attendees at the National Convention for the United Auto Workers (UAW).
- LACC’s 10 millionth visitor, Greg Young, arrived to visit the Boat Show in 1980.
- MAGIC “Men’s Apparel Guild in California” added three temporary structures, known as the “Bubbles,” to increase exhibit space for their show on Figueroa Frontage in 1980. Five additional bubbles were added in 1983 providing a total of 140,000 square feet of exhibit hall space.
- The LACC served as the Main Press Headquarters for 8,000 journalists covering the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in 1984.
- The International Los Angeles Art Fair, produced by Andry Montgomery out of London, was held at LACC from 1985 to 1993. Their annual gala was a major star studded event. More recently, the prestigious LA Art Show arrived at the LACC in 2009, now the largest art fair on the West Coast.
- The inaugural E3 was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 1995 and has returned on annual basis.
- In 1996, LACC was the first stop on a two-year nationwide tour celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian Museums. Over 400,000 people came to see “America’s Smithsonian” during it 31-day run.
- LACC served as the world press headquarters for the 2000 Democratic National Convention nominating Al Gore.
- In 2004, The Grammy Awards pre-telecast ceremony and official “Celebration” party for 7,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences moved to its new home in West Hall.
- In 2006, MusiCares, the Grammy Foundation Person of the Year dinner and concert, moved to the LACC. Honorees include Aretha Franklin (2006), Barbra Streisand (2011) Paul McCartney (2012) and Aerosmith (2020).
- The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences first hosted the 60th Annual Emmy Awards Governors Ball in West Hall in 2008. Since then, the official post-Emmy Awards party has become an annual event at LACC.
- Anime Expo opened in 2008. A tremendous success right out of the gate, the expo has become one of the LACC’s most heavily attended annual events.
- Stan Lee’s Comic Con, later known as LA Comic Con, came to the Convention Center in 2011.
- To compliment concerts held at Staples Center and LA Live, BET Experience came to LACC in 2013.
- Celebrating Korean pop culture and music, KCON was first held at LACC in 2015 in conjunction with a series of KPOP concerts at The Staples Center
The People of the LACC
The Los Angeles Convention Center is proud to have been associated with a talented group of forward-thinking individuals who have contributed to the success of the facility throughout the years.
- Charles Luckman
Charles Luckman was an American businessman, property developer, and architect known for designing landmark buildings in the United States such as the Theme Building at LAX, Prudential Tower, Madison Square Garden, The Forum and the original Los Angeles Convention Center.
- Mayor Sam Yorty
Sam Yorty served as Mayor of Los Angeles for three terms from 1961 to 1973. The self-described Maverick Mayor began his career as a liberal Democrat and ended it as a conservative Republican. He supported the building of the original Los Angeles Convention Center, which was opened during his tenure in 1971. West Hall was originally named Yorty Hall.
- Neil Petree
Neil Petree was an exceptional businessman and civic leader. He chaired the LA Chamber of Commerce Committee, which was created to locate, finance and build the Los Angeles Convention Center. Additionally, Petree held such prestigious positions as President and Chairman of Barker Bros. Corp., Chairman of the Major Highway Development Committee, President of the Hollywood Bowl Assn., and Director, President and Chairman of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Assn. The first ballroom in West Hall was named for Neil Petree.
- I.M. Pei and James Ingo Freed
I.M. Pei, Henry N. Cobb and James Ingo Freed joined forces in 1989 to form the award-winning firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Freed, an American architect born in Essen, Germany, was the lead designer on the LACC expansion project. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners also completed such major works as the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, The United States Holocaust Museum and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
- Gilbert Lindsay
Gilbert William Lindsay was a Los Angeles politician who worked his way up from City Hall janitor to become the city's first African American City Council member and one of its most powerful elected officials. He helped fashion downtown Los Angeles into a major metropolitan center, serving 27 years on the city's governing body. The Plaza outside of West Hall is named for Gilbert Lindsay.
- Mayor Tom Bradley
Thomas Bradley was an American politician and police officer who served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993. He was the first and only African American mayor of Los Angeles, and his 20 years in office mark the longest tenure by any mayor in the city's history. Bradley also served as the first African American member to be elected to the LA city council. Bradley supported the expansion of the LACC. South Hall was named Bradley Hall by Mayor Richard Riordan, Bradley's successor.
- LACC’s General Managers
1968 – 1971 Paul J. Herd (pre-opening)
1973 – 1974 Byron Timble*
1974 – 1997 Dick Walsh
1997 – 2006 George Rakis
2006 – 2012 Pouria Abbassi
2013 – 2018 Brad Gessner
2018 – 2022 Ellen Schwartz
2022 – Present Kimberly Weedmark
*then known as the Municipal Auditorium Department
LACC's 50th Anniversary Celebration
On July 29, 2021, approximately 200 attendees gathered in the Los Angeles Convention Center's iconic West Hall Lobby to celebrate the LACC’s 50th Anniversary.
City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the group that included City and State officials, event organizers, Convention Center partners, the downtown LA hospitality community, and current and former LACC employees.
Additional remarks were mady by;
- Doane Liu, Executive Director, Los Angeles City Touism Dept
- Adam Burke, President & CEO, LATCB
- Ron Bension, President & CEO, ASM Global
- Ellen Schwartz, General Manager, LACC
During the celebration, the newly-launced LACC Hall of Fame debuted, naming three events as inaugural inductees. Each of these events embody the spirit of the Convention Center. To commemorate their induction, Mayor Garcetti presented each of the organizers with a framed proclamation from the City of Los Angeles.
- Ski Dazzle Founders Jim Foster and Judy Gray with Mayor Garcetti
- LA Auto Show Owner Lisa Kaz with Mayor Garcetti
- Anime Expo CEO Ray Chiang, Sr. Director of Operations Matt Thomas with Mayor Garcetti
Moving forward, each July additional events will be named to the LACC Hall of Fame.
Collectively, these events will illustrate the vibrant history of the Los Angeles Convention Center.