It’s challenging to stay abreast of the numerous hotel openings and renovations across the country and abroad, but certain projects are truly game-changers and invariably end up on a planner’s radar. For planners who do business in the Pacific Northwest, the Hyatt Regency Seattle is one of those properties creating major new opportunities. Opening this fall, the site will be the Emerald City’s largest meeting hotel with 1,260 guest rooms and 103,000 square feet of meeting space, topping the Sheraton Seattle Hotel’s 1,236 guest rooms and 75,000 square feet of meeting space. In fact, the Hyatt will be the largest hotel in the Pacific Northwest. What is more, the new property will be located adjacent to the Washington State Convention Center’s planned expansion and is thus primed to serve as the headquarters hotel for the WSCC’s clientele.
Mallory Rabinowitz, Seattle-based sourcing manager for Experient, has toured the Hyatt, which will be a boon for the citywide tech conferences she plans in the city. “Seattle is very popular right now, so with this hotel being added to the downtown core, it’s going to help a lot of the citywides,” says Rabinowitz, who has booked the hotel for a spring 2019 meeting. On her tour, she noted the optimal design of the meeting space, comprised of 46 rooms of various sizes. “The meeting space is all laid out so well. You can have multiple groups in-house at the same time, and you don’t necessarily feel like you are walking through the other group. You really feel like you’re in your own self-contained space,” she describes. “And for those smaller corporate groups, they have those 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot rooms so they can be in a corner by themselves and not feel swallowed.” The property will be seeking LEED Gold certification, and the design certainly incorporates natural light. “When I went on the tour, I don’t think I saw a meeting room that didn’t have natural light,” Rabinowitz comments. “In the Pacific Northwest, people think it’s gray and dreary all the time, but our sunny days are gorgeous, and you definitely want to take advantage of that.”
Especially known for sunny days is San Diego, California, where the 400-room InterContinental San Diego opens in September. The property will offer 95,000 square feet of meeting space. The 35,000 square feet of indoor space includes the 12,000-square-foot Pacific Ballroom, accommodating up to 1,500 guests. Outdoor space includes bay-view terraces overlooking Lane Field Park. The flagship restaurant will be Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.
Colorado’s meetings industry is celebrating the centennial of a longstanding icon of the luxury resort market. The Broadmoor turned 100 years old this year and has been commemorating a different era in the hotel’s history each month this year (e.g., the focus in August is “Designing the Broadmoor Gardens”). The occasion is also being marked with several upgrades to the property, including a refresh of Broadmoor Main’s guest rooms and the golf facility. The original lobby of Broadmoor Main has been expanded and now includes a fireplace. A new eatery is Café Julie’s, which evokes a fine Parisian patisserie. In addition, the former Golf Club Dining Room has been reimagined into The Grille, with its own classic bar and mountain views.
On the more metropolitan side of Colorado, December saw the debut of the Hilton Denver City Center following a $27 million renovation. The 613-room hotel is housed in a 20-story tower and offers groups more than 50,000 square feet of function space, including 32,000 square feet of indoor space. The property is conveniently located just three blocks from the Colorado Convention Center.
“In the Pacific Northwest, people think it’s gray and dreary all the time, but our sunny days are gorgeous, and you definitely want to take advantage of that.”
— Mallory Rabinowitz
In Texas, a major upgrade is taking place at the Omni Houston Hotel, which reopens in November following a $30 million renovation. The hotel offers 40,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 10,000-square-foot Regency Ballroom. The project is redesigning the first- and second-floor space and expanding it by 2,500 square feet. Goodman Manufacturing has held dealer meetings at the 378-room Omni Houston Hotel for eight years, bringing in groups of up to 150 attendees. Mary Alice Kahanek, CMP, senior manager, events and trade shows, describes some of the logistical features of the event space that have made the property ideal: “It has a large meeting space that has its own prefunction space. It’s great that I can go down the hallway and know that everybody’s going to be mine — it’s not a thoroughfare of the hotel. You just don’t mix with all the other guests in the hotel, which I really like. We also do a lot of themed dinners and pool receptions, and you can go directly into the meeting space from the pool area. So it’s really a nice flow. We do a pool reception and then invite them up to the ballroom for dinner.” The additional meeting space “is going to be an advantage to us to have pop-up meetings during our meeting. They’re locating [the new rooms] in other areas so you don’t have to be contained just to the meeting space. There are going to be rooms down by the welcome desk and near the bar and restaurant.” In addition, the Omni is redesigning its lobby and bar with a historic Houston theme. The bar is being expanded to include both a wine bar and whiskey room. Goodman Manufacturing’s attendees will return to the hotel to enjoy these new features in November and December.
About 90 miles northwest of Houston in College Station, the Doug Pitcock ‘49 Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center is set to open in August. The Benchmark Hotels & Resorts-managed property, located on the Texas A&M campus, offers 250 upscale guest rooms, 35,000 square feet of IACC-certified meeting space, a full-service restaurant that focuses on locally sourced ingredients and a 1,400-space parking garage.
Similar to the impact that the Hyatt Regency Seattle will have on a first-tier market, the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport will be a game-changer in Boston when it opens in early 2021. Furthering the development of the city’s Seaport District, the 1,055-room hotel is part of Omni’s growing Convention Center Collection. As such, it will offer formidable meeting facilities — approximately 100,000 square feet of function space, including the largest hotel ballroom in the Seaport District, along with direct access to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Property highlights include LEED Silver certification, a Mokara Spa, a 7,500-square-foot outdoor pool deck, a 4,500-square-foot pool bar and grill and a French brasserie.
Boston’s hospitality industry also welcomes the renovation of the Boston Marriott Long Wharf. Completed this summer, the $35 million project has redesigned the hotel’s 398 guest rooms to reflect the waterfront locale and transformed the hotel’s 20,099 square feet of meeting space, which includes 19 event rooms. A new addition is the two-story M Club Lounge, which offers a breakfast buffet and automatic access for Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members plus one guest.
On the gaming front, a standout in the Northeast meetings market is Mohegan Sun. The riverside property has made a quantum leap in its meetings infrastructure with the introduction of the $80 million Earth Expo & Convention Center this spring. The expansion includes the 125,000-square-foot, column-free Earth Expo Center, the 20,000-square-foot Earth Ballroom — divisible in two and featuring more than 3,000 square feet of prefunction space, 15 meeting rooms ranging from 360 square feet to 675 square feet, a high-tech, 1,263-square-foot Executive Boardroom with a private outdoor terrace, 3,500 square feet of outdoor space and a 5,630-square-foot kitchen. On the entertainment side, Mohegan Sun is debuting GAME ON! this winter. Located inside the Expo Center, the 23,000-square-foot restaurant and bar will offer diversions such as bowling, Ping-Pong and karaoke.
A new entrant to the Northeast gaming market is MGM Springfield, opening August 24 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The 250-room property will be home to a 125,000-square-foot casino and upscale eateries including Cal Mare, by Michael Mina and The Chandler Steakhouse. The property offers 34,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as an open-air plaza in view of the historic Springfield Armory. Other property highlights include Topgolf Swing Suites, retail outlets, a collection of New England art, a spa, fitness center and pool.
In western New York, The Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, a 135-room, AAA Four Diamond property, is located on the southeastern shores of Chautauqua Lake in the village of Celoron, near attractions such as the new National Comedy Center and the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. The hotel houses the Lakeview Ballroom and Conference Center, accommodating up to 300 attendees, and a patio overlooking the lake. The hotel also has its own small island with a gazebo, ideal for small gatherings.
Planners who are partial to Music City welcomed the opening of the JW Marriott Nashville in July. The 33-story tower houses 533 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of function space, making it a major addition to Nashville’s hotel portfolio. Property highlights include the award-winning Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina, Spa by JW and a collection of contemporary, music-themed art.
One of the largest hotel investments in the Southeast is the $150 million expansion of the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. The project will add 303 guest rooms to the 1,416-room resort and about 90,000 square feet of function space to the property’s already massive 400,000 square feet. A new multilevel parking garage will be added by 2019, and the lodging and meeting space expansions are projected for completion in 2021.
This year marked the completion of a $32 million, two-year renovation of the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort Golf Club & Spa, in Point Clear, Alabama. The 371-room property renovated its guest rooms and 38,000-plus square feet of function space, opened The Local Market and Bayside Grill and Southern Roots (complementing the Saltwater Grill and Grand Steakhouse) and added a recreation lawn. Point Clear is a scenic beach hamlet near Fairhope, Alabama. When not enjoying the Gulf Coast shores, attendees can play at one of 10 tennis courts, tee off at the Lakewood Club or visit the 20,000-square-foot Grand Spa.
Also known for its extensive recreational amenities is Georgia’s Sea Island Resort. This summer, the resort announced plans to invest $25 million into enhancing The Lodge at Sea Island, adding six new cottages, an oceanfront pool and pool house. Completion is expected in November, when the resort will host the RSM Classic, an official PGA TOUR event held annually at Sea Island Golf Club. Golf enthusiasts will benefit from additional enhancements — a new state-of-the-art Golf Performance Center opening in early 2019, a fully renovated Sea Island’s Plantation Course reopening in October 2019 and a putting course.
Savannah, Georgia-based Yates-Astro’s attendees will experience these enhancements. The pest control company traditionally holds its Annual Managers Meeting at the resort. “Yates-Astro feels fortunate to be located close enough to one of the finest resorts in the country. It is because of this that we have held our Annual Managers meeting at Sea Island for the past 26 years,” notes Anita Garris, office manager at Yates-Astro and planner of the event. The number of attendees has grown from 10 at the first meeting to 61 last year, a group size that is nicely accommodated in the Clubroom. “We also utilize the Sea Island Hudson and Summit boardrooms as a place for our branch locations to meet on
Saturday,” Garris adds. “The architecture and décor in the Sea Island meeting spaces is beautiful. We have also had black-tie plated dinners in the Ocean View Room as well as casual buffet cookouts at Rainbow Island. This event gives everyone the opportunity to visit and enjoy Sea Island’s delicious cuisine and fine wines. Whether casual or black tie, they have always put together a wonderful menu for our event.”
The conference services staff is also quite resourceful. “One year, we had scheduled a cookout at Rainbow Island, and had to move it indoors because of inclement weather,” Garris says. “[Senior Conference Service Manager] Brittany Blythe moved it to the Spanish Lounge at the last minute. A notice about the change was sent out to all of our guests. You would have never known that the Spanish Lounge wasn’t our intended location.”
Sea Island is part of the Golden Isles of Georgia, and groups can enjoy coastline views from many of the resort’s meeting venues, which total more than 40,000 square feet.
Speaking of island resorts, a major new option opened last year in Nassau, Bahamas. Situated on Cable Beach, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offers 1,800 ocean, fountain and island-view guest rooms, including 230 luxury suites and residences. The property is a true destination resort, featuring a collection of five restaurants, a 30,000-square-foot ESPA Spa, 100,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course and state-of-the-art tennis courts and facilities. At the same time, the property makes a strong bid for group business with the Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Center, one of the Caribbean’s largest meeting facilities at 82,000 square feet. That includes three unobstructed ballrooms (the largest spanning 29,600 square feet) and 16 breakout rooms. Overall, the Grand Hyatt offers 200,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor function space.
Just as new 1,000-plus-room hotels are becoming game-changers in the meeting marketplaces of Seattle and Boston, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar has given planners a major reason to consider the Bahamas. New properties mean new opportunities for groups, from the northern cities to the tropics. C&IT