Build the Future—Literally

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This rendering shows what the front of IAAPA’s new Orlando headquarters could potentially look like when it opens in 2019.

IAAPA’s new global headquarters in Orlando will establish a solid foundation to start the association’s next century

by Jeremy Schoolfield

100th Anniversary-w dates-colorIn the fall of 2016, the IAAPA Board of Directors voted to relocate the association’s global headquarters from Alexandria, Virginia, to Orlando. The monumental decision came at a critical time for the organization, as it wraps its first century and lays the foundation for the next 100 years of service to its members. Here is a look at how and why that determination was made, and what moving to Orlando means for IAAPA’s future. 

The Decision

IAAPA’s headquarters resided in Chicago until 1985, when the board of directors voted to move the association to Alexandria, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The attractions industry was flourishing at that time, and the goal of the move was to better position IAAPA to make its voice heard to lawmakers in the United States capital. 

At that time, the organization’s full-time staff consisted of just eight people. Over the decades, IAAPA expanded its services to members and, thus, grew its staff to deliver those programs. Some 30 years after the move to Washington, the association employed approximately 40 people in the headquarters building, and it was simply out of space. 

“Through the success and growth of the organization over the past several years, we had outgrown our location in Alexandria,” says IAAPA COO Doug Stagner, who is overseeing the design and construction of the new global headquarters building. “The talk of moving to Orlando had been bantered about for several years, so the board decided in 2015 to answer the question: Should we move to Orlando, or should we stay in D.C.?”

The board created a task force to investigate options and recommend a solution. “Both possibilities were thoroughly examined,” Stagner says. “In the end, the task force made a recommendation to move to Orlando, and the board accepted.”

Stagner says remaining in D.C. would have required finding and leasing new office space in the area, so a move was going to happen no matter what. While IAAPA’s legislative work remains a top priority, the association’s growth means demands on its resources have expanded, as well. The board felt a move to Orlando would allow IAAPA to better connect with its members—both those with offices in the area, as well as all those who regularly travel to Central Florida for business. The headquarters office officially moved this past summer, while a smaller group of association staffers remains in Washington permanently to continue D.C.-related functions. 

A New Global Headquarters

Once the IAAPA Board of Directors approved the move to Orlando, another critical question arose immediately: Should the association lease/buy existing office space or build its own facility? The board decided to construct a headquarters from scratch because, as 2017 IAAPA Chairman Greg Hale puts it, “The true benefit of moving the IAAPA global headquarters to Orlando is drawing inspiration from the surrounding environment and creating a workplace where members and the IAAPA staff can engage with one another to craft the future of our industry for the next 100 years.”

In early 2017, IAAPA purchased a 7-acre piece of property near the intersection of Central Florida Parkway and John Young Parkway—a short distance southeast of the Orange County Convention Center, which houses the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo. Stagner says the location is ideally suited for members to easily access IAAPA’s new headquarters; it’s minutes from the Orlando International Airport and close to the main tourism corridor in town. 

“We’re fortunate we found a spectacular piece of land that’s surrounded by water on three sides,” Stagner says. “We’ve come up with a design that’s not your typical office building. We want it to reflect the global nature of the association and who we are.” 

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IAAPA’s new headquarters will be surrounded by water; the rendering seen here shows potential for an open-air, mixed-use space on the back of the building.

While the building’s primary focus will be housing 40-plus full-time staffers from IAAPA’s global and North American offices, about a third of the structure will be dedicated to member services and programs. There will be multipurpose rooms that can be used for committee meetings, educational seminars, networking events, and more. An outdoor patio will offer an ideal location for receptions. There will also be space members can use to hold their own meetings when they’re in town, as well as an industry and association archive, interactive displays, and more. 

“It’s a place where members will want to stop by whenever they’re in Orlando,” Stagner says. “The board agreed Orlando is the place to be, because this is where the industry comes together. It makes sense for us to have a place where our members can come together, as well.”

new_hq_mapIAAPA is currently leasing office space in a business park at 9205 Southpark Center Loop, Suite 300, in Orlando, just a few minutes’ drive from its eventual permanent home. The new building is scheduled to open in 2019, and Stagner says the association is master-planning the site for well into the future, factoring potential expansion of the facility into long-term plans, should the need arise. 

“This building is literally our foundation for the next 100 years,” he says. “The facility will give us the flexibility to meet the demands of the future.”