MONROEVILLE, Pa. (KDKA) — The Monroeville Convention Center will close this summer, and the news came as a surprise to many Monday.
“For it to just be pulled out from underneath of us out of nowhere is very disheartening,” said Pittsburgh Gaming Expo showrunner Colt Dalmaso.
Dalmaso is just one of many showrunners who find themselves scrambling after receiving letters canceling their show contracts.
Several large event planners told KDKA-TV’s Meghan Schiller they got word of the cancellation with little to no explanation. Many started getting calls from upset vendors who read people posting about the topic on social media.
“We were told the contract was canceled for quote-unquote significant construction,” said Alex Kinnamon with the Pittsburgh Gaming Expo.
Kinnamon said his three-day event was scheduled for this October, but now he’s dealing with a logistical nightmare.
“You’re bringing in bands, you’re bringing in celebrities that are guests, you’re bringing in all these individuals who run vends and they exhibit and they sell their stuff at these shows. All of these people rely on these dates that you tell them,” said Kinnamon.
He said it’s a huge financial hit for himself and the vendors involved.
KDKA Investigates learned the space will transition on June 1, 2024, to a Hobby Lobby and any convention days scheduled after June 1 are no more.
Oxford Development Company said:
“We are excited to welcome Hobby Lobby as a new business to serve the needs of the local community and region. This new business in the heart of Monroeville’s retail business district will create jobs that add to the revitalization of Monroeville with the regular presence of employees, customers, and vendors. Events at the center scheduled to occur prior to June 1 will take place as currently scheduled, events planned after June 1st have been provided notice of the convention center closure effective June 1, 2024.”
Vendors who reached out to KDKA-TV think this will take a toll on the local economy.
“This is a hit in more ways than one and it affects more than just us as showrunners, it affects more than just individual vendors,” said Kinnamon. “It’s just the whole economy of vending around of it kind of falls apart and the town kind of sucks too if that happens.”
Steel City Con posted on social media saying its April show lease will not be affected, but they’re now trying to find new venue space for its August and December shows. The post said:
“This week the Monroeville Convention Center (MCC), and its owners, Oxford Development, have informed us that effective June 1, 2024 Oxford Development has entered into a twelve-year lease with Hobby Lobby and will cease operations at that time, therefore terminating all show leases. Our April show will not be affected. Steel City Con currently has shows scheduled August 9-11 and Dec 6-8, 2024, and we are currently in discussions with multiple venues in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area to move these shows. We thank the Monroeville Convention Center and the city of Monroeville for over 30 years of hosting Steel City Con. We look forward to hosting our shows as scheduled in a new venue, and will be making subsequent announcements soon.”
Events at the Monroeville Convention Center are huge for restaurants like the Wooden Nickel and the workers who make their livings there.
“It is going to hurt us because it is a big weekend every time they come into town. It’s going to slow us up,” said Mary Lou Urban of the Wooden Nickel.
Amber Schiavo works at the mall. She worries business will dry up when the convention center’s gone.
“The conventions that go in there, they bring a lot of business to that mall,” Schiavo said. “That mall is struggling as it is. We don’t want it to turn into Century III.”
“I guarantee the hotel is not happy about that either,” Schiavo added. “That’s a lot of business they get in for people from out of state. And the vendors and the guests that stay there.”
A desk employee at the DoubleTree by Hilton told KDKA-TV on Monday that he just canceled five reservations and that at least 60 percent of the hotel’s business comes from convention center events.
KDKA-TV reached out to Mayor Nick Gresock and the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday but did not hear back.
Monroeville Council has a public meeting on Tuesday night.