Atlantic CityOctober 1, 2017

It Just Keeps Getting Better By
October 1, 2017

Atlantic City

It Just Keeps Getting Better
Atlantic City's world-famous Boardwalk.

Atlantic City’s world-famous Boardwalk. Credit: Meet AC

There are hundreds, even thousands, of reasons to meet in Atlantic City, including all 600,000 sf of meeting, function and exhibit space available in the Atlantic City Convention Center, the largest convention center in the state of New Jersey.

The Atlantic City Convention Center can accommodate large meetings, exhibits and trade shows, and it also offers special deals for small meetings of 50 to 100 attendees. Moreover, it’s dedicated to green initiatives and has successfully reduced energy consumption every year since it opened in 1997.

Green-focused planners can learn about energy efficiency, recycling, water usage and more through Meet AC, the sales and marketing arm of the Atlantic City Convention Center and also the first stop for any planners needing information and resources for meetings in Atlantic City.

While the city offers many of the top brands among gaming hotels, it also offers non-gaming hotels for those planners who prefer that their groups meet away from the distraction of gaming action.

Gaming hotels include Bally’s Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, The Water Club (Borgata), Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Atlantic City, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Resorts Casino Hotel and Tropicana Hotel & Casino. Those properties provide a total of 14,253 guest rooms, 207 meeting rooms and a combined 663,594 sf of meeting space.

Non-gaming properties include Showboat Atlantic City, The Claridge Hotel, Sheraton Atlantic City, Stockton Seaview Resort and Courtyard by Marriott, which together offer 2,522 guest rooms, 57 meeting rooms and 397,253 sf of total meeting space.

Even a little research will reveal that Atlantic City has a lot more going for it than the Miss America pageant and its famed Boardwalk — though the beach and the Boardwalk are among the top reasons attendees want to register for meetings in AC to begin with. In addition, the city offers excellent dining and a culinary scene populated by some of the restaurant industry’s brightest stars including Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Gordon Ramsay. Like its kindred-spirit Nevada gaming city, Atlantic City also gives shoppers much to love, with outlets and high-end boutiques alike, including shops at Caesars and Tropicana. Then there’s the gaming and nightlife — a big draw for many attendees when meetings wrap up for the day.

What many planners may not know is that ranks Atlantic City as one of the East Coast’s premier golfing destinations, with more than 25 golf courses in the surrounding area. If golf is an essential component of a meeting, Atlantic City is an excellent destination to consider. And, of course, there are spas galore, including the revered Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa.

But most of all Atlantic City means business. It’s a destination that clearly understands the needs of meeting planners and business groups, including those from the financial and insurance industries. It offers all of the elements necessary for successful meetings — perhaps especially those elements that drive registration, thus contributing positively to ROI for planners and companies.

A Harrah’s Experience

Kimberly Zielinski, conference manager with the Professional Insurance Agents Association of New Jersey and New York, says, “Atlantic City is, and always has been, a fantastic destination for our joint annual conference of insurance agents. Atlantic City is a great place to mix business with pleasure. Every year we enjoy record-breaking attendance!”

The association’s conference in June of this year drew 2,000 attendees. It was based at Harrah’s Atlantic City, where the resort’s conference venues provided all of the meeting space necessary. The group did not go off-property for any scheduled functions or events.

“Atlantic City offers a ton of options for large and small meetings, at competitive rates,” Zielinski says, “but our conference has grown over the past few years, so we need a larger facility that can hold our group.”

Harrah’s has worked well. “2018 will be our third consecutive year at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. The staff was very professional, friendly and easy to work with throughout the entire process of planning our event,” Zielinski says. “We hold a reception at the pool at Harrah’s, which is the highlight of our conference. Our attendees love the atmosphere — so much fun!

“We utilize the new Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s for our annual conference,” Zielinski says. “The space is the perfect size for our group, and the meeting rooms are bright and spacious. We also used Encore Technologies for all of our AV needs, and they were awesome. If we needed something, they were there at the drop of a hat to assist us in any way.”

The majority of the group’s sleeping-room block was in the Waterfront Tower, which is the closest tower to the conference center. “This was very convenient for our attendees,” Zielinski notes, adding, “the hotel décor is current and pleasing to the eye, and the staff at Harrah’s is the best. They are very accommodating to your needs and will do just about anything to help make your event run smoothly.”

In terms of location, Harrah’s is in the Marina district of Atlantic City, which is off the Boardwalk. “This could be a positive or a negative, depending on what your group is looking for,” Zielinski says.

There was a glitch for the group this year but there was a workable solution. “The one challenge we had was that there happened to be a bicycle race going on in Atlantic City on the first day of our conference. Therefore, the main route to Harrah’s was closed. Our attendees were re-routed to go through the city to get to Harrah’s. It was a minor glitch,” Zielinski says, “but everyone made it to the facility without a problem.”

When it comes to advice for other planners considering Atlantic City as a meeting destination, Zielinski says, “If you want to mix fun with business, Atlantic City is the place to have your meeting. There are so many options and there’s so much to do.”

That said, she adds, “Don’t forget to negotiate everything. These hotels want your business and they will certainly work with you to get you there.”

Cost-effective for CPAs

The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants also met in Atlantic City in June for its annual convention and expo, with about 1,000 attendees registered. The convention was based at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, another of the city’s properties with gaming.

“As a New Jersey-based membership organization dedicated to serving the needs of the Garden State CPAs and aspiring CPAs, it’s imperative that we hold our annual convention in a convenient, cost-effective and enjoyable local location for our members,” says Ralph Albert Thomas, CGMA, CEO and executive director of the organization. “Atlantic City checks all the boxes. The city is just a two-hour drive (or less) for the majority of our attendees and it offers an ideal combination of affordable accommodations and entertainment.”

The group used Borgata’s Event Center, The Water Club, the new Central Conference Center and the Music Box, the resort’s concert venue with 1,000 seats. “Our members truly enjoy visiting the Borgata for our annual convention,” Thomas says. “The hotel offers wonderful accommodations, attentive staff and an excellent meeting experience. All of our technology needs were met and the catering was excellent.”

Technology is particularly important. “All of our keynotes speak at the Music Box,” Thomas says. “These speakers set the themes and the tone for the rest of the convention. The tech staff members go above and beyond to ensure that all our audio-visual needs are met, ensuring that these critical talks go off without a hitch.”

The CPA group did not experience any challenges in planning or executing this meeting, but Thomas does offer a couple of pieces of advice to those who might be considering booking a meeting in Atlantic City or at Borgata specifically. “Quality conference space is at a premium in Atlantic City as the city goes through its rebuilding phase,” he points out. “Book early and consider a multiyear agreement with a venue.”

Additionally, he says, using staff to direct attendees should be considered in addition to signage. “While directional signage is always helpful, it’s best to position staff on the hotel floor to help attendees navigate their way between functions and conference spaces.”

In the end, however, Thomas believes that building relationships in the city is one critical element for a meeting’s success. “One of the best ways to organize and execute a great event is by developing strong relationships with the hotel staff. Our event staff members have developed an excellent rapport with the Borgata staff, and it shows in the level of attention and responsiveness that we receive during our event.”

Rebuilding Phase

It’s almost an understatement to say that Atlantic City is a dynamic destination and its “rebuilding phase” extensive. Much has already been done but there is so much more to come, which ultimately will give planners and groups even more choices.

A lot happened in 2016. The historic Claridge was rebranded as a Radisson, and the hotel added 15,000 sf of meeting space for a total of 100,000 sf. In summer 2016 it also opened the city’s first and only rooftop bar, Vue, making it an ideal choice for an outdoor function. Showboat Hotel also reopened with 872 guest rooms, and plans are in the works to add meeting space and restaurants. Additionally, Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City finalized a $50 million renovation project that included room upgrades, expansion and renovations in its Havana Tower and South Tower, as well as a facelift for Jade Palace, the hotel’s Asian gambling room.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa spent $50 million on projects in 2016, including an outdoor pool, beer garden and eatery. A new nightclub also debuted in 2016, and this year the hotel’s new 18,000-sf Central Conference Center opened, giving the resort a total of more than 106,000 sf of meeting and event space.

Also happening this year is the highly anticipated 200-foot-high Observation Wheel at Steel Pier, which will give attendees panoramic views of the Atlantic City skyline and ocean from inside climate-controlled gondolas when it opens this month. And Revel, now named TEN, is expected to open later this year.

Hard Rock International purchased the Trump Taj Mahal and expects to open the newly renovated and upgraded property over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. Guest rooms and suites will be completely renovated, along with the indoor pool, exterior, meeting and convention spaces and performance venues. New will be a Hard Rock Casino, Hard Rock Cafe, check-in experience and lobby lounge and new and upgraded dining venues throughout the property.

Also expected for completion in 2018 is Tropicana’s skyway bridge connecting its recently purchased Chelsea Hotel to the main hotel. With the addition of what will be called The Chelsea Tower at Tropicana Atlantic City, the resort will have 2,730 guest rooms.

In 2019, a 350-foot-high vertical Polercoaster will debut in Atlantic City. The state agreed to pay 27.8 percent of the total projected project cost of $138 million, voting to provide a $38.4 million state grant. The Polercoaster will rise on the site of the former Sands Casino, which was imploded in 2007. Future plans for other attractions near the coaster site include a zip line, extreme ninja course, an XD Theatre, a skydiving simulator, a bar and retail space. The coaster is expected to open in time for the summer season in 2019.

Caesars is fully engaged in an ongoing reimagining of its properties in Atlantic City. The $125 million Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s already opened, as did the Wild Wild West bar at Bally’s. Also part of the master plan for Harrah’s and open as of this summer are the upgraded 450 guest rooms and suites in the hotel’s Bayview Tower, new dining venues and the completion of the multimillion-dollar overhaul of the hotel’s nightclub, The Pool After Dark. About the enhancements management said, “Atlantic City, with its iconic beach and world-famous Boardwalk, has been a mainstay summer destination for decades and our resorts — Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s — are committed to offering guests first-class, Vegas-style experiences without the flight.” That’s definitely great news for those within driving distance of all that Atlantic City offers.

At Mohegan Sun’s Resorts Casino Hotel, all 480 rooms in the Ocean Tower have been renovated. The recently completed update is part of approximately $100 million that was earmarked for expansion and renovation of the hotel, which included the $35 million spent on the Jimmy Buffet-themed Margaritaville entertainment complex and a state-of-the-art conference center, which opened in 2015.

The hotel also announced its All-inclusive Meeting Package, which is priced per person, per night and provides morning and afternoon breaks, Wi-Fi in meeting rooms and guest rooms, audio-visual, parking, all taxes, gratuities, resort fees, meeting room rentals and three meals a day. Among the restaurants available for attendee meals is Capriccio, which was honored for its outstanding wine program in Wine Spectator’s 2017 Restaurant Awards, announced in August.

“Resorts’ all-inclusive package makes the meeting planner’s job much easier. One price per person keeps the expenses within a budget and at the same time, provides tremendous value for their investment,” says Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel. “Meeting attendees appreciate having a variety of dining venues during their stay, with all meals included in the all-inclusive meeting package.”

Embracing Change

Atlantic City is a destination committed to evolving, upgrading and embracing changes that will make it a go-to meeting destination for planners and groups all along the East Coast. It’s already perfectly located, within a few hours’ drive of nearly one-third of the nation’s population and 20 percent of U.S. business addresses. The convention center offers enough space and easily meets the technology needs of today’s conferences, plus it offers an emphasis on maintaining and improving its green status, an important factor for many planners these days.

The question is not why meet in Atlantic City. It’s why not meet in this modern city that is becoming more business- and conference-friendly every day, with improvements already in place and more upgrades in the pipeline that will further elevate the city. I&FMM

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