The city's convention and visitor's bureau has finally answered some beery prayers -- agreeing after several years of negotiations to allow the Great American Beer Festival to significantly expand the amount of space it uses at the Colorado Convention Center.
Beginning in 2015, GABF will add 90,000 to 100,000 additional square feet, bringing its total amount of floor space up to around 380,000. The agreement will continue through 2020, says Brewers Association spokeswoman Barbara Fusco.
As testament to its popularity, the festival has sold out within minutes in the past two years, frustrating many would-be attendees who have missed out. And this year, brewery registration sold out within two hours, taking many brewers by surprise as well.
But the added space won't necessarily translate directly into a major increase in the number of tickets that are sold, Fusco says. (The festival, which runs today through Saturday, typically welcomes 49,000 attendees each year.)
"We have a couple of years ahead of us to gather input from our members and our fans and decide exactly how to use that space the best," she explains. "But we're not just going to multiply the square footage we have now when it comes to tickets."
Rather, the Boulder-based trade group will look to keep up with the evolution of craft brewing. Fusco pointed to the Farm to Table event, which takes place inside the GABF and requires an additional ticket, as an example of how the BA has already done this.
"GABF has a lot of longtime fans and lot of new fans, a lot of fans who want us to change everything and some who want us to change nothing. It's a balancing act and it requires some tradeoffs," she says. "There will be a lot of speculation about what we are going to do, but we don't know yet. We hope it will be something awesome."
Rich Grant, spokesman for Visit Denver, which books the convention center space, says GABF has proven in the last two years that it fills enough hotel rooms and restaurants around Denver to warrant the extra space.
"We have a $600 million building, whose purpose is not to make money for us. Its purpose it to bring in business... September and October are the two busiest months of the year... and we don't just take any group," he explains.
But Visit Denver did a survey two years ago and released an economic-impact survey for GABF last year, which shows that craft beer has become a major economic driver.
While the BA has been making that point for several years, Visit Denver only recently acquiesced. Rather than limiting the overflowing festival, Grant says the decision will allow it to grow and improve in the future.
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