David L. Lawrence Convention Center Bustling with Visitors

Article excerpt

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center's good ventilation system, pillar-free exhibition hall and 26 loading docks make it a suitable spot for a truckers' group to set up an obstacle course for tractor-trailers.

VisitPittsburgh CEO Joe McGrath said Thursday that's why the American Trucking Association picked the Downtown center for its 2009 National Truck Driving Championship from Aug. 18-22. The safety- themed event for professional drivers and the AFL-CIO's Quadrennial Constitutional Convention from Sept. 13-17 were announced yesterday as two of the latest conventions the tourism agency booked for the center.

The center is busier these days, according to figures VisitPittsburgh released yesterday at its annual meeting.

Of the 573 conventions and meetings the agency arranged last year for 2008 and beyond, 43 were conventions that used or will use the center for 242 days. Smaller meetings, in addition, are helping to fill out the schedule at the center expanded six years ago for $375 million.

The latest figures compare with 454 events booked in 2007 for that year and beyond, and 37 conventions that mean 197 usage days for the center.

Despite critics "who say the convention center is a white elephant," Craig Davis, the agency's vice president of marketing, told about 200 people at the meeting, "attendance has doubled, revenue has tripled and the David L. …