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From a rebrand to calls for a new arena, Cincinnati visitors bureau yearns for change

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Cincinnati USA will now be Visit Cincy following an announcement at Friday's annual Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting.

During Friday's Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau annual meeting, the 75-year-old organization announced a rebrand. Cincinnati USA will now be called Visit Cincy.

According to a release, the name change offers the opportunity for regional marketing opportunities in partnership with meetNKY to reach key markets for tourism, convention and meeting business.

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Cory Sharber
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WVXU
Cincinnati USA President & CEO Julie Calvert addressed the hundreds attending Friday's annual CVB meeting at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

“The Visit Cincy brand will be an exciting catalyst to rally our regional partners and meet new growth opportunities,” said CVB President & CEO Julie Calvert. “Visit Cincy is more than a name, it’s an invitation that conveys our mission and invites the world to visit Cincy.”

Convention center district update

During Friday's meeting, 3CDC CEO Steve Leeper says the Duke Energy Convention Center is in need of an overhaul roughly 16 years after its expansion.

Leeper was a featured speaker during Friday's CVB meeting. 3CDC is working on redeveloping the convention center, along with building an adjacent hotel. The development company was selected to manage the process in January. Leeper says the region shouldn't settle for a mediocre product, and that resources such as hotel taxes and state tax credits should be used efficiently in the redevelopment.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
3CDC CEO Steve Leeper says the region shouldn't settle for a mediocre product. 3CDC was selected to manage the development process in January.

"We've only been at this for about four months, if that, but we have learned a lot in these four months and we are very, very excited about the possibility," Leeper said. "And as we move through this process and hopefully show some progress, we'd love to come back and share this with you."

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Here's a look at some of the areas surrounding the convention center district.

Leeper recommends placing a hotel adjacent to the convention center on the 5th and Plum surface parking lot. The hotel project is critical to the city's bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to Cincinnati in 2026.

In January, Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials said they want to create a full "convention district" Downtown, which includes redevelopment of the Duke Energy Convention Center and surrounding properties.

The Millennium Hotel was widely criticized in the years leading up to its closure on Dec. 31, 2019. At one point, then-Mayor John Cranley publicly discouraged people from staying there, pointing to online reviews calling the hotel "horrible" and the "worst downtown hotel ever," and saying it caused people to have bad experiences in Cincinnati. The Port acquired the property in 2020 and began demolition last spring. A spokesperson says demolition is on schedule to be complete in June 2022.

Call for a new arena

In the past year, Cincinnati opened the doors to a 26,000-seat soccer stadium and an indoor/outdoor music venue. Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau Chair Jeff Berding says it's time for the region to decide if it should construct a new arena to replace the Heritage Bank Center.

Berding says the city has lost notable events to other cities in the Midwest by not building a new arena, including NCAA March Madness games. He says Milwaukee's recently built arena is now hosting the same amount of tournament games Cincinnati previously did.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Cincinnati USA chair Jeff Berding discusses the need to replace the Heritage Bank Center during Friday's annual CVB meeting. Berding is also co-CEO of FC Cincinnati and is a part of the group working on Cincinnati's 2026 FIFA World Cup bid.

"I say it's time that we have a modern arena in Cincinnati," Berding said. "By the time we build it, it'll have been 50 years — 50 years — since we've built Riverfront Coliseum."

Berding also discussed how Cincinnati is now missing out on major political events, including the 2016 Republican National Convention, which was held in Cleveland.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
The Heritage Bank Center's primary tenant is the Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team. The arena hasn't been renovated since 1997.

The Heritage Bank Center was built in 1975, then called Riverfront Coliseum. It is the largest indoor arena in the city. The arena was last renovated in 1997. Calls to replace the arena have been made since 2017. The estimated cost of that proposal was $350 million.