Bordered by Seventh Street on the east, Ninth Street on the West, N Street on the north and Mount Vernon Square on the south, the center is about four blocks from the MCI Center, home to Washington's professional basketball and hockey teams, and across the street from the historic Carnegie Hall Library.
The center was funded through about $530 million in bonds issued in 1998. Robinson said officials also had $100 million in reserves and received additional funding from the annual dedicated tax collections from the restaurant and hotel tax.
The largest building in the nation's capital, it has 68 public restrooms, 38 escalators and 31 elevators. It also has more than 4 acres of glass walls, 160 types of lights and 30,293 light bulbs.
Even though Baltimore is the closest major city to Washington, Robinson said, he doesn't consider the city's Convention Center a top competitor.
"We tend not to get into talking about business and what we're taking from other places, but we generally are competing against cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and Orlando on the East Coast," he said.
"Vegas and Chicago are sort of in a league of their own. They're bigger than our facility, and there are shows that go there that would never go to the East Coast. We think we're positioned to do well. Baltimore is a competitor, but we generally are not competing for the same business."
According to information supplied by BACVA 9 percent of the business that Baltimore sought and failed to land last year went to Washington.
Marshall E. Murdaugh, tapped as BACVA interim president and chief executive officer, said that even though Washington's new center isn't scheduled to open for a few weeks, Baltimore has been feeling the pinch for several years.
"It's not that we will now have to compete against the new center; we've been competing against the center for the last few years, a center that was never opened," he said. "First Philadelphia, and then Atlantic City and now Washington, D.C., all in the last few years have surrounded Baltimore with new convention centers."
Murdaugh said officials in Baltimore will continue strategies they hope can counter losses resulting from Washington's new facility.
"What we need to do is what we've just started. We need to put more aggressive solicitation on the street," Murdaugh said. "We need to be more aggressive in our sales efforts.
"I think we're making some great progress, by the way. We just announced in the last week a number of new marketing initiatives that we've taken on with a lot of partners. And one of the things that has not been announced is that we have just hired a firm based in Chicago, David Green & Associates, which has a great track record in soliciting destinations and attracting business. They're going to be out there making telemarketing calls about generating short-term business within the next 18 months."
Sanders, the Texas professor, said it's too early to gauge how Washington's new convention center will perform.
"It's tough to say what the impact will be," Sanders said. "We are in a market now where it's increasingly characterized by a very high level of competition around the country, and the end result is the convention centers are increasingly struggling just to stay even.
"What we see in an increasing number of cities are sales and deals. Convention center space on sale, in many cases being given away free, and increasing efforts to try and get in new convention and meeting business, with often limited success. The problem we have is that everybody is potentially taking business away from everybody else."
Hughes of Tradeshow Week, said that for the next few years, bookings could be volatile for centers the size of Washington's.
"One year bookings may be up, the next year they may be down, the year after that they may be down significantly, then the next year they may be up," Hughes said.
"It is possible that the economic impact numbers may come in slower than planned. The facilities are usually built to drive new spending, or to drive what we call business tourists to the city that otherwise wouldn't be there.
"The average trade show delegate generates about $1,300 to the city. It's good money. If a convention center hopes to have a return on its taxpayer investment in 10 years, it could be 15 or 20 years in this environment."
Another factor that could come into play with Washington's center is its location. But Robinson said he doesn't think its location in the nation's capital will hurt the new center's chances of attracting business, despite the threat of terrorism.
"I think Sept. 11 speaks well for the future of not only the convention center but the tourism industry in Washington in general," Robinson said. "We were actually hosting an event during Sept. 11, and because we had a strong emergency response plan, that show did not cancel. I think in many respects, many conventioneers view Washington as one of the safest places in the country."
Hughes said he doesn't think there's a big threat of terrorism at convention centers.
"The only real issue that we foresee for trade shows and conventions and venues when you talk about terrorism are really only for high profile or sensitive meetings or groups," he said. "Those groups know who they are and tend to have high-quality security. Really, the risk is group-related, not venue-related. The venue itself is generally not a target."