Atlantic City is undergoing several key transformations to resurrect its appeal to a wider leisure and business market. It’s becoming a more family-friendly destination by diversifying activities and entertainment options, expanding core groups beyond Northeastern-based businesses and associations, and expanding meeting and convention spaces to host larger groups.
Meet AC, the destination’s CVB, is spearheading the transformations with impressive results. In 2016, Meet AC booked 260 meetings and conventions representing 289,422 hotel room nights and more than 863,602 convention delegates.
The growth is continuing this year. “Meet AC had a record year in event bookings and a year in advancing Atlantic City’s image in the meetings and convention market,” says Jim Wood, president and CEO of Meet AC. “Meet AC looks forward to selling and marketing the destination to book future meetings, conventions and sporting events.”
The Atlantic City Convention Center (ACCC) contributes to the growth by offering 486,600 sf of exhibit space, 45 meeting rooms and more than 32,000 sf of prefunction space.
The ACCC recently hosted a four-day meeting for 6,000 sales representatives, employees and customers of 5linx, a Rochester, New York-based multilevel marketing company. The company plans to meet in Atlantic City again in 2018 and 2019.
5linx chose Atlantic City in part because of the value. “There are great incentives both with the hotels and CVB to conduct meetings in Atlantic City,” says Denise Nowak, vice president of marketing and meeting planner. “That helped to sway corporate’s decision to consider having more events in town.”
5linx was also impressed by Meet AC’s extensive research of the group’s needs. “They attended our event in other cities to get a good background as to what can be expected, and were proactive in addressing issues we had in other cities so that we did not face them in Atlantic City.” says Nowak.
Atlantic City was one of two finalists for the meetings. “Corporate voted for Atlantic City. Corporate has always liked having events there since the convention and visitors bureau provides assistance with publicizing the event with welcome signage at the airport, along the streets, etc. It’s also easy to get around Atlantic City with the jitneys. Our people like the activities and there is much to do at night.”
The ACCC hosted most meetings and events, including a new product launch and a keynote speech by motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Service was outstanding, says Nowak.
“The convention center went above and beyond to provide for our group,” Nowak says. “We hold numerous large conferences throughout the country each year, and the CVB (Meet AC) has always done more than other cities to welcome our event. Our attendance was larger than expected so we had to change our meeting space and they were able to accommodate us.”
Functions also were held at 5linx’s headquarters hotel Caesars Atlantic City, which features 28,000 sf of meeting and event space that can host groups of all sizes within its 17,135-sf Palladium Ballroom and 10 meeting rooms ranging in size from 490 sf to 1,262 sf.
“The Caesars property was utilized for our dinner for our 250 top leaders,” says Nowak. “Space was also used at the location on Saturday morning, where over 1,000 attended a worship service prior to the event starting.”
Planners such as Nowak are benefiting from the $200 million that Caesars Entertainment is investing to upgrade its Atlantic City casino properties.
Bally’s Atlantic City spent $3 million to upgrade its Gold Rush-themed Wild Wild West area and remodel its luxury Jubilee guest rooms. Bally’s, located in the middle of the Boardwalk, offers 1,760 guest rooms and 80,000 sf of versatile meeting space in 28 rooms, all on one floor.
Caesars Entertainment recently completed more than $30 million in enhancements to Harrah’s Resort. The hotel’s upgrades include the addition of several new restaurants; a complete restoration of its iconic pool and nightclub, The Pool After Dark; and a fresh redesign and enhancement of 450 guest rooms and suites in the Bayview Tower.
Harrah’s also invested $125 million in its new 100,000-sf Waterfront Conference Center, the biggest convention center-hotel facility between Boston and Baltimore. The facility boasts LEED Silver Certification and features two 50,000-sf ballrooms and 64,000 sf of meeting space.
The Claridge, a Radisson Hotel reopened in 2014 as a fully restored historic hotel with 483 renovated guest rooms. The property, home to the Holtzman Art Gallery, debuted additional conference space, adding 15,000 sf to meet the growing demand for conference space throughout Atlantic City. This brings Claridge’s conference space to 100,000 sf, including a 6,400-sf room and four smaller conference and boardrooms. In addition, The Claridge boasts an elegantly renovated ballroom and recently opened Atlantic City’s first rooftop bar, VUE, with expansive views.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s 18,000-sf Central Conference Center (CCC) is part of the $50 million the property is spending on new projects. The CCC offers five customizable meeting rooms, a 6,500-sf ballroom as well as a boardroom and office. In addition, the facility boasts state-of-the-art internet access, HD digital projection and sound systems. The 2,000-room Borgata offers a total of more than 106,000 sf of meeting, event and convention space among its three main venues: The Event Center (70,000 sf), The Water Club (18,000 sf) and the new Central Conference Center (18,000 sf). Borgata’s sister property, the Water Club at Borgata, offers 800 guest rooms and 36,000 sf of meeting space.
Resorts Casino Hotel’s new 15,000-sf conference center is part of the property’s $100 million upgrade. Located at the northern end of the Boardwalk, the enhancements are helping the 942-room property to once again become an East Coast beachfront, boardwalk and tourism property. Resorts also offers two theaters seating 300 and 1,350 people, respectively, and total meeting space of 64,000 sf.
Resorts Casino Hotel recently hosted a four-day meeting for 525 medical personnel by the Philadelphia-based Jefferson Ultrasound Radiology Education Institute (JUREI). The group has met at Resorts the last three years and recently signed contracts through 2020 because of all the property offers.
“In sourcing other locations, there was no better offer in regards to room rate, amenities and other negotiated contract items,” says Jodi Markizon, CMP, manager, JUREI. “The sleeping rooms have been recently renovated or are currently in the process. The hotel is in a central location on the Boardwalk. “There is good food at reasonable prices and an abundance of meeting space that matches our needs.”
The new conference center played a key role in Markizon signing future meetings. “Prior to the conference center being built, we were a good fit for the meeting space,” says Markizon. ”Once the conference center was built, we had the opportunity to add concurrent sessions in a beautiful new setting with all the latest technology. We held our reception in the exhibit hall to let participants meet and mingle while enjoying food and beverage.”
The top-notch service keeps Markizon returning. “This is where Resorts truly shines,” she says. “We developed relationships with the staff, and they know our needs. For example, they know that one of our speakers likes a special chair, a special mouse and a specific water. They make sure that all that is available for her. We often have last-minute room reservation changes with arrivals, departures or type of room, and they always accommodate us.”
InContact Inc., a Sandy, Utah-based provider of cloud-based customer communication systems, recently held its three-day annual regional sales meeting at Resorts Hotel for 16 attendees for the second consecutive year.
Jarrett Cummings, vice present sales for InContact, cites Resorts Hotel’s service as a prime reason for returning.
“They are very attentive to our needs,” says Cummings. “Service isn’t just a job for them. They really do want us to have a great time. The feeling is echoed from the time you walk in until the time you leave by everyone from the bellman to the waiters to the event staff. One of our sales engineers said, ‘You can really tell everyone wants our business and appreciates us.’ ”
The stellar service combined with the cost-effective “all-included” packages proved to be a good combination. “Everything is included in your room rate, or can be,” Cummings says. “There is no nickel-and-diming for meeting rooms, internet, projectors, conferences, phones, etc.”
Cummings describes the all-inclusive service: “We had a private cocktail party at the Landshark Bar on the beach with heavy appetizers and hors d’oeuvres with beer and wine included,” says Cummings. “The food just kept coming. The second night we had dinner at Gallagher’s Steak House. It was everything you expect from a steak house and more. The food was included and drinks were extra.”
Cummings notes that breakfast, which was held every day at Breadsticks, was included in the room rate and allowed for attendees to order off the regular menu. “They just take the meal expenses off our room bill at the end of the stay. What a great way to do it.”
Last year, Tropicana completed $40 million in renovations that included 500 Havana Tower hotel rooms, the North Tower casino and five new shows that will be featured on Tropicana’s Multimedia Light and Sound Show featured on the Boardwalk. The project also includes a redesigned hotel entrance at Pacific Avenue. The property’s new multimillion-dollar AtlantiCare LifeCenter includes the most comprehensive gym facility in Atlantic City.
Earlier this year, Chef Jose Garces opened three new restaurants concepts. Olón, inspired by the Ecuadorian beach town of the same name, offers seafood cuisine and includes two private dining areas seating a total of 60 people. Okatshe features Japanese cuisine, 50 sakes, and seats 80 for private functions. Bar Olón is a 60-seat, double-sided bar and lounge located between the two restaurants.
As part of the Tropicana’s efforts to offer more non-gaming activities, it introduced Escape AC, a 60-minute team game that challenges groups of two to 10 people to “escape” a room in 60 minutes using clues. The teambuilding game bonds participants by requiring them to communicate, use teamwork and think critically. Executives can assess a group’s performance from a viewing room.
The Tropicana offers 122,000 sf of meeting space including an 18,000-sf column-free ballroom that accommodates up to 1,800 attendees for meetings. Meeting space also includes 50 function rooms and the Grand Exposition Center, which handles groups of 10 to 2,000 people and 113 8-by-10-foot exhibit booths.
The landmark, 872-room Showboat Atlantic City, which reopened in July 2016 as a non-casino property, plans to add a $40 million multi-use event center at its location on the Boardwalk, according to The Press of Atlantic City. Also it remains unclear when TEN, formerly Revel, will reopen. Both properties will be without casinos for now, but there are plans to eventually use the gaming floors in some way.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn recently closed a deal to sell the Trump Taj Mahal casino to Hard Rock International and two New Jersey investors. A sale price was not announced. Hard Rock International plans to invest $300 million to renovate and rebrand the property.
Over the last several years, the 724-room Golden Nugget Casino, Hotel & Marina has undergone an extensive $150 million propertywide renovation and expansion. Upgraded areas include The Showrooms, casino floor, Spa & Salon, pool deck and Landry’s Signature Restaurants — the Chart House and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse. Spaces available for group events include the 12,000-sf Haven Night Club.
Borgata opened a new Italian-American themed restaurant, Angeline, featuring celebrity chef Michael Symon. Borgata’s other big-name chef-branded dining options include Wolfgang Puck American Grille, Bobby Flay Steak, Izakaya Modern Japanese Pub (Michael Schulson), The Water Club (Geoffrey Zakarian), as well as Old Homestead Steak House (restaurateurs Marc and Greg Sherry). Borgata also introduced a new 3,200-sf outdoor pool and beer garden that can be used as an entertainment gathering spot at night. The Borgata’s projects also include the new 18,000-sf Premier nightclub, which opened May 2016. The space is designed as “a theatrical experience for partygoers” and competes against blockbuster clubs in Las Vegas, New York and Miami, according to the resort. Tiered booths tilt toward a DJ station, stage and “digital proscenium.” Carved-stone bars 35 feet long flank the main room, with a horseshoe-shaped mezzanine and 25-foot-wide digitally programmable chandelier hanging overhead.
Upgrades at Resorts Casino Hotel include room renovations and a $35 million enhancement to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café and LandShark Bar & Grill located within Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville-themed entertainment complex.
Atlantic City has grown way beyond its roots as a prime East Coast gaming magnet. It is now a prime destination for leisure and business travelers from across the nation, with a growing range of not only entertainment and activities, but sophisticated facilities and service aimed at its growing meeting and convention market. C&IT