By Josh Howes, John McCleary, and Jim Patton

What do a guy running motor coach operations, the Executive Director of Fur Rondy, and a boxing promoter have in common? We each use and recognize the value of the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center. Since April 1984, the Egan Center has played a vital role in the economy and civic life. This month, the Egan Center celebrates a milestone anniversary. It is a central element to conducting business for all three of us, and an important hub for commerce and community in Anchorage. 

Egan was Anchorage’s first purpose-built convention center. Since opening, generations of Alaskans have come together at the Egan Center to connect, do business, celebrate, and be entertained. It remains a draw for downtown and the whole community.   

A forty-year list of all the highlights would fill this space. Recent events include Thursday Night at the Fights, Trend Alaska Fashion Show, national concerts, comedy shows, and Fur Rendezvous events like the Miners and Trappers Country Jam – Rondy has been one of the groups to use the Egan Center since it opened – as well as community group meetings, public forums, luncheons, and receptions. During summer months, cruise companies also utilize the Egan Center as a reception and transportation hub for some travelers coming into the ports of Anchorage, Whittier, and Seward. Egan Center functions as Anchorage’s front door and serves as a stepping off point for time spent downtown and beyond in Anchorage. These visitors alone represent millions of dollars in spending for the community during the busy months of summer. 

The Egan Center is also vital for visiting conferences and meetings. According to Visit Anchorage, the value of business booked for Egan Center from 2024 to 2027 is worth $5.8 million in spending in the community, and that number grows with each event booked. It means thousands of people from Alaska and Outside coming to Anchorage. 

Having both Egan Center and the Dena’ina Center lets Anchorage host large meetings that require space in both, host two smaller meetings at the same time, or hold events in quick succession using flexible room layouts. For example, KDD 2019 was large enough that the group utilized both centers during their meeting, as did the National Golden Age Games that same year. The Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention mainly utilizes the Dena’ina Center for its Anchorage meetings, and affiliated groups often book the Egan Center on the same dates because of its proximity. This month, Arctic Encounter had the Dena’ina, at the same time an emergency management conference took place at the Egan. 

Anchorage Convention Centers’ operations and maintenance are paid for through hotel tax revenue, ticket sales, and rental agreements. No general fund dollars (or by extension Anchorage property taxes) go to operations or upkeep of the convention centers. The funding model works as intended. Even with cancellations during COVID, the convention centers were fully supported through bed taxes and reserves. Even in a worst-case scenario, no property taxes could be used to support the centers. 

Egan Center may be 40, but investments have kept it in better shape than convention centers half its age elsewhere. New escalators, elevators, lighting controls, plumbing fixtures, digital signage (both inside and out), carpets, airwalls, and concession areas – each project has kept the Egan Center an inviting place and primed it for future success. 

We encourage you to come to the Egan Center for an event soon. You’ll reminisce about a favorite visit from years past, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how the Egan Center has kept pace, ready to create new memories for years to come.

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Josh Howes is President of Premier Alaska Tours, a local transportation company. John McCleary is Executive Director at Fur Rondy. Jim Patton is an announcer and promoter and started Thursday Night at the Fights in 1989.