ANAHEIM—The $200 million Anaheim Convention Center Expansion broke ground April 21 under an all-union Project Labor Agreement between Turner Construction and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.
It did so in bold fashion. With an audience of 300 Building Trades union leaders and members, elected officials and Anaheim dignitaries, an excavator wrenched and smashed a two-story chunk of old parking structure to the high-decibel strains of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”
At 1.6 million square feet, the venerable 1967 center was already the West Coast’s largest. But while rich in exhibition acreage, it had in recent years lost its competitive edge because it lacked the meeting space that contemporary conventions require.
As a result, it risked losing blockbusters like the NAMM music show.
In response, a coalition composed of the Trades, progressive Councilmembers, business owners and others advocated for bold action. The group weathered lawsuits and overcame opposition to win a years-long battle.
“This convention center and the Resort District are the lifeblood of Anaheim,” Ernesto Medrano, Council Representative for Orange County and Anaheim resident, said from the podium. “We must keep them healthy and help them grow.”
Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring said the project will create Trades careers. “The Trades do such a good job on their apprenticeship programs. It will be wonderful to have people back to work after this terrible recession.”
The expansion will create a state-of-the-art, flexible two-level 200,000 foot hall with 25-foot ceilings, a climate-controlled connector bridge and 1,350 new parking spaces. The new facility, to open in spring 2017, will generate 1,860 jobs for skilled Building Trades workers, then 2,000 permanent jobs on completion at restaurants, hotels and elsewhere. The city anticipates $9 million yearly in new tax revenue.
A Bread-and-Butter Job
Medrano’s predecessor and fellow Anaheim resident Jim Adams was praised widely at the event, in speeches and among the crowd. “It’s a good feeling,” Adams said. “The crafts worked hard for a long time to make this happen, and thank goodness it’s finally here.”
David Henderson, business representative for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 36, said the ACC is his local’s bread and butter. “Our membership works in this facility daily. So this is something we’ve been wanting a long time. And we’re always glad to see other Trades get work.”
Richard Samaniego, Business Manager for IBEW Local 441, said the PLA will power local revenue. “Local hires reinvest in their city,” Samaniego explained. “That’s a huge selling point.”
Former Anaheim Councilmember Gail Eastman, who helped lead the effort for the center, called the day historic. “This is an exciting moment for all those Trades people who’ve been without work,” she said. “They’re finally getting out of the recession.”
Dave Belanger, project safety manager for general contractor Turner Construction, said the day had special meaning for him. “I’ve lived in Anaheim since 1962,” he explained. “Quality is unsurpassed with union. They build America. Everybody here knows what to do, and in a safe manner.”
Skilled and Qualified Workers
Laborers Local 652 Business Manager Adrian Esparza said he hopes this groundbreaking inspires others. “They’re getting quality workmanship from skilled, qualified workers,” he said. “The future looks bright. The economy is coming back, not just for Laborers but for all the crafts. It’s exciting.”
Jay Burress, President and CEO of the Anaheim Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau, announced that demand is high. “We have already booked 14 groups into the new space,” he said. “We said it would deliver, and it’s going to—starting day one.”
Field Representative for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 36 Doug Robbins called the expansion a win for everyone. “Hopefully we’ll show surrounding cities the benefits of a PLA. When people see the results of local hire, in terms of jobs and tax revenue, they’ll understand the benefits.”