SAFE Credit Union Convention Center

Sacramento, California, United States

  • Typologies

    Convention and Exhibition Centers

  • Building Activities

    Conferences & Expos

  • Services

    Architecture, Interior Design, Urban Design

  • Completion


CHALLENGE. When the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau set out to reimagine Sacramento as an important convention destination in the capital city of the world’s fifth largest economy, the team turned to Populous for vision. Populous began by exploring options to maximize the convention center programming, balance urban design opportunities, activate public open space and modernize the entire convention experience, creating a holistic solution to prepare the destination for decades of positive economic impact.

The new Populous design transformed the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center into an urban destination that serves as a gateway to the myriad live, work and play options in California’s capital city. The vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods around the venue were once disconnected and interrupted by the old building. Populous worked with city planners and local stakeholders to reduce the urban footprint of the expanded convention center while adding much needed sellable area to the facility. This innovative approach to convention center expansion balanced with creative urban planning created significant public open space for hosting convention events, community events, farmers markets, festivals and much more.

The SAFE Credit Union Convention Center design speaks volumes about thinking big and going beyond the walls of the building itself. Situated in the heart of Sacramento’s Entertainment District and bookended by a new arena, world class hotels, award-winning restaurants and retail spaces, the redesigned venue honors the city and considers its rich history and future growth.

The convention center is on the path to LEED Silver certification and has achieved Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR Facility Accreditation, demonstrating its commitment to ensuring a clean, safe and healthy environment for everyone using or working in the facility.

INNOVATION. The expanded and renovated SAFE Credit Union Convention Center draws upon Sacramento’s rich blend of agriculture and aquaculture and aligns perfectly with the city’s innovative reputation as the Farm to Fork capital of the world.

From reorienting entrances to align with district activations to a building envelope that defies conventional design, the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center elevates what a convention center can be. Gracious pre-function and lobby areas optimize connectivity to further enhance the overall experience. The new ballroom is divisible into 10 meeting rooms and flexible meeting room blocks can be used to create myriad event spaces. This innovative adaptability increases capacity to hold concurrent events and maximizes the opportunities to utilize the space, economically activating the city for year-round use.

Our collaboration with Populous ensures that the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center will seamlessly become part of the fabric that transforms our downtown core and elevates the experience of being together.

Matthew Voreyer / General Manager of the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center

New signage and wayfinding throughout the district create a clear, cohesive and connected experience and improve circulation. Three strategically located lobbies replace one outdated entrance of the old building, improving access and circulation within the building while intuitively directing users into adjacent hotels, as well as the city’s popular midtown and downtown neighborhoods. The building also provides a new kitchen and administrative offices for city staff and convention employees.

Floor-to-ceiling windows in lobby areas capture natural light and bring the outdoors in while operable glass walls in the west lobby open to an outdoor events plaza for seamless indoor/outdoor experiences. The expansion reimagines the ‘front door’ of the venue by situating its new west-facing lobby on a 35,000-square-foot events plaza featuring an outdoor stage, public art, activation zones and landscaping.

IMPACT. Since its opening in 2021, the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center has become a hub of activity in downtown Sacramento, and has received rave reviews from initial guests. The facility revitalizes an underused part of downtown by opening a pedestrian route to midtown and the neighborhoods beyond. The new design and reorientation of the convention center allows for a natural connection on K Street, Sacramento’s historical main street, and creates a connection between downtown and midtown while reestablishing a vital economic and community corridor.

This enclave of Sacramento — dubbed the SAFE Credit Union Convention & Performing Arts District as part of a financial commitment from local not-for-profit SAFE Credit Union — is a district boasting an eclectic mix of restaurants, parks, art galleries, coffee shops and local businesses. The entertainment triple-play of the district also includes the nearby Memorial Auditorium and the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center with the new convention center serving as a hub that brings connectivity to the three important venues.

Facts and Figures
square feet of total programmable space
square exhibit hall
square foot ball room
Sacramento Business Journal - Best Real Estate Projects of the Year
Project Team
Connect with the designers

Michael Lockwood

Carrie Rezac

Danielle May

Scott Capstack

John Jesik

Scott McCracken

Robert Clement

Jonathan Mugmon