Major meetings and events were disrupted by a tornado that cut a six-mile swath through downtown Atlanta Friday, March 14. Events lost over the weekend included the Atlanta Home Show, a dental convention and much of the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. Estimated damage to the city is in excess of $250 million.The Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) campus, which includes Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Dome, was hit hardest. All three venues are closed to the public temporarily. Other downtown venues affected by the storm included the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University, which cancelled its weekend events.
The GWCC is the city’s largest convention facility. In addition to tearing back a part of the roof over one of the convention center’s exhibit halls, the storm broke water pipes and exposed parts of the center’s infrastructure to the elements. Exhibitors who had set up for the weekend shows were prevented from breaking down until safety concerns were addressed. The amount of damage and a timetable for the center’s reconstruction has yet to be determined, but Mark Zimmerman, the GWCC’s general manager, intimated Monday that most upcoming conventions will find adequate undamaged space in the 3.9-million-sq. ft. facility to go on as planned. Major downtown convention venues that are still open include AmericasMart (376,000 square feet of exhibit space; room for up to 1,000 exhibit booths) and the Georgia International Convention Center (150,000 square feet of exhibit space; 40,000-sq. ft. ballroom).
Hotels and attractions suffered minor damage. The CNN Center’s roof reportedly was repaired over the weekend, and tours have resumed. The Omni Hotel at CNN Center lost the use of nearly 500 rooms, expected to take an estimated two weeks to repair. The damage did not cancel this week’s 600-person Department of Energy conference at the Omni, however; North Tower meeting space and accommodations were unaffected. The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel lost use of roughly 100 rooms; work to replace broken glass is expected to take up to a month. Downtown attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, Imagine It! Children’s Museum and the World of Coca-Cola are open for business.
For facility updates and more information, visit Atlanta.net.