(August 16, 2023) COLUMBIA, S.C. As the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center (CMCC) welcomes Soda City Comic Con back this weekend – its largest recurring event – it’s an indicator of the retention and contracting of events that has led to record numbers for future business.

The CMCC team contracted 352 events this past year, with contract values totaling over $1.5 million, which exceeds the previous record for booking revenue by 12 percent. These future events are forecasted to bring just over 158,000 attendees, using over 20,300 hotel room nights.

“This past fiscal year we exceeded pre-pandemic numbers for events held in both number of events, and space, so the numbers show that the facility has now recovered past pre-pandemic volume in both booking and events taking place,” said CMCC Director of Sales Sarah Britt.

The increase in future bookings can be attributed to less short-term bookings, retention of new business booked during the pandemic, the recovery of recurring businesses, and the hard work and expertise of the convention center sales staff. During the pandemic and recovery, the CMCC clients wanted to wait as long as possible to book event dates, Britt said. However, last fiscal year booking windows lengthened, and many groups began contracting years in advance again.  

“This surge in bookings demonstrates the recovery of the industry as planners are confident making commitments farther out in the future,” said CMCC Vice President and General Manager Cheryl Swanson. “However, we also attracted new business and events that became regular clients.  This new business coupled with our traditional events contributed to the record-breaking results.  Our repeat business validates the staff’s consistent ability to deliver superior service and exceed client expectations. Based on this pattern, we project continued growth and demand to book events at the convention center.”

In addition to Soda City Comic Con and it’s nearly 10,000 projected attendees this weekend, rebooked groups include Encore Dance Competitions with an expected 2,000 attendees, S.C. Association of School Librarians who are returning through 2026 with approximately 550 hotel room nights, Amarok and Mungo Company will hold annual meetings here, and the S.C. Bar Convention returning with 1,100 attendees. In new bookings, Jurassic Quest held its first dinosaur show at the CMCC this year with 4,000 attendees in the two largest event spaces for six days, using about 100 hotel room nights.  

“What we are most proud of is the retention of events through the pandemic and beyond,” said Bill Ellen, president and CEO of Experience Columbia SC. “Our convention center staff is diligent about finding ways to attract new events to Columbia, ensuring that attendees have the best experience while they are here, and leaving a lasting impression. This is why we see increases in repeat business and future bookings and over consecutive years that create a positive economic impact.” 

Ellen said more business in the convention center drives economic impact to local hotels, restaurants, and businesses in the area. David Erbacher, regional director of sales for the nearby Hyatt Place, agrees.

“We are lucky to have such an active and forward-looking convention center team,” Erbacher said. “With the amount of conventions and events they have placed on the books, it is helpful for hotels to plan ahead and give accurate forecasts to our team and staff as well as continue to drive revenues to our properties.  One of the most important aspects of a hotel operation is to make sure we are staffed accordingly and are ready to give everyone the experience they deserve while in Columbia. The further out we can see these events, the better prepared we can be, and this team delivers on all fronts.” 


About the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center:

Centrally located in South Carolina's historic capital city, the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center (CMCC) is South Carolina’s only downtown convention center and is in the middle of a vibrant, urban scene with dynamite eats, world-class attractions, breweries and a never-ending roster of festivals and live music. Built in 2004, CMCC is a 142,500 square foot facility that includes a 16,700 square foot ballroom, 18,560 square feet of meeting space that can be broken into up to 19 different spaces, and a 23,700 square foot column-less exhibit hall. For more information, please visit www.columbiaconventioncenter.com.