St. Louis Gets to the Art of the Matter at America’s Center
The international touring exhibit, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, adorned the ceilings of a 27,625-square-foot ballroom inside the convention center. Open Thursday-Sunday between Nov. 6, 2020-Jan. 17, 2021, the attraction sold 15,457 tickets and generated $210,000 in revenue at a time when meetings and conventions were not operating inside the facility.
“We made productive use of American’s Center,” said Brian Hall, chief marketing officer at Explore St. Louis.
Without event business to occupy the building, the facility could have been closed for months without clever bookkeeping and marketing from city officials. Ticketmaster records show visitors came from hundreds of miles away to witness the exhibition, which consists of more than 30 photographs meticulously recreating the Vatican’s signature ceiling.
“It was all right there as opposed to being 65 feet above you,” Hall noted.
The Vatican launched the touring artwork to combat over-tourism by bringing re-creations to interested parties across the world. In an ironic twist, St. Louis capitalized on Michelangelo’s appeal at a time when the pandemic severely limited travel.
A virtual press conference helped build buzz for the months-long event, which, among other benefits, kept hospitality officials and convention center workers employed and in good practice for when group business picks up — presumably later this year.
“Once you stop altogether, you’re going to lose people to other employment opportunities,” Hall said of the importance of staying operational.
To maintain the health and wellbeing of guests, only 100 ticket holders were allowed into the exhibit per hour. Other measures included:
- Touch-free entry doors
- Infrared temperature screenings for guests upon entry
- Mandatory use of face coverings and social distancing
- Abundant signage
- Rigorous sanitization of all surfaces as well as employing several hourly staff for cleaning, security and concessions
- Individual event plans developed in conjunction with St. Louis City health officials.
The facility also recently earned GBAC Star accreditation.
The exhibit was the second high-profile method St. Louis employed to make use of its convention center. Last summer, NBC used The Dome at America’s Center to film its entire season of American Ninja Warrior.
More recently, the destination began welcoming youth volleyball tournaments as traditional events begin returning to the center. The TransWorld’s Halloween & Attraction Show is scheduled for America’s Center May 6-9. TransWorld is adding its Christmas show to the festivities this year, it announced, which also includes the company’s Room Escape Conference.
Event organizers returning to St. Louis this year will see many new attractions, including expansion of an entertainment district outside Busch Stadium, City Foundry — a shopping and dining hall opening this spring — and new development outside Union Station, including a new aquarium. In 2023, a new soccer-specific stadium will be completed to coincide with the completed expansion of America’s Center.
“There's all kinds of new stuff happening,” Hall said.