Meetings and conventions update from the New England states
When sunny days return to the Northeast, the sounds of backhoes, saws, and hammers rev up to let planners know that the New England states are getting set to give meetings their best seasons of the year. Here are the highlights of what's completed and what's coming.
The bridge connecting Providence, R.I.'s, Dunkin' Donuts Center, a concert and event arena, to the third floor of the Rhode Island Convention Center has opened, giving attendees an indoor path from the arena all the way to the Westin Providence hotel and Providence Place mall. The Rhode Island Convention Center Authority is planning a September ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 96-foot bridge and $81 million in renovations.
In Boston, there was a sigh of relief last spring when a Massachusetts legislative commission announced that the Hynes Convention Center remains a viable meetings site, despite the opening of the much larger Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The Hynes is scheduled for $18 million in improvements to be completed by spring 2009.
Boston and Cambridge hotels enjoyed a record 2007. Average revenue per available hotel room hit $160, and daily room rates went to $209, passing highs set in 2000. Pat Moscaritolo, CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, noted that the 2.1 million-square-foot BCEC, which opened in 2004, has played a key role in the industry's success.
As with most convention centers that do well, it's not long before an expansion is under discussion. Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Executive Director Jim Rooney envisions a BCEC expansion with up to 300,000 square feet of exhibit space. If it goes through, the new space will be built on an adjacent 22 acres, but it would not be complete for at least six years.
The Greater Hartford CVB, delighted with the success of the Connecticut Convention Center, has formed a partnership with CVBs in Madison, Wis., and Spokane, Wash., to encourage planners to put the midsize cities into their conventions' regional rotation. The cities have roughly the same metro population, similar convention and hotel space, and an airport close to downtown. One of the partnership's tools is a new Web site: www.HartfordMadisonSpokane.com.
The $700 million, 825-room MGM Grand at Foxwoods opened in May in Mashantucket. It is home to a 4,000-seat theater, a new casino and an additional 115,000 square feet of meeting space.
Foxwoods Resort Casino, next to the MGM Grand, has 55,000 square feet of conference space, including a ballroom that can seat 3,500. Foxwoods and MGM Grand will work together but are marketed as separate destinations.
In January, the 484-room Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center opened after a multimillion-dollar renovation and rebranding of the former Westin Stamford. The hotel has a new 10,000-square-foot ballroom.
Inn by the Sea, in Crescent Beach, has 57 redesigned guest rooms, a spa and fitness room, and 1,300 square feet of new function space.
Changes at Short Sands in York Beach include a renovated Atlantic House Hotel and the Union Bluff Meeting House on Beach Street, which opened in July 2007.
After $150 million in renovations, Boston's landmark 1851 Charles Street Jail reopened last year as the Liberty Hotel. The 300-room hotel features 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
The new $165 million, 471-room Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel offers 21,000 square feet of meeting space.
Mandarin Oriental, Boston, will open in July in the Back Bay with 148 guest rooms and direct access to the Prudential Center.
W Hotels Worldwide will open its first Boston property in the city's theater district in August 2009.
The new Regent Hotel at Battery Wharf Boston has 150 rooms and 6,200 square feet of meeting space.
In 1889, the 13-story Ames Building opposite the Old State House became the first “skyscraper” in Boston. In 2009, after a $40 million renovation, it will become the 120-room Ames Hotel.
A 72-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites is opening across from the TD Banknorth Garden.
The Copley Square Hotel in Boston's Back Bay closed in January and reopened its 143 rejuvenated rooms this spring after a $14 million renovation.
The 203-room Cambridge Courtyard by Marriott opened April 1 in the former Radisson Hotel Cambridge.
In January, Ocean Edge Resort & Club on Cape Cod broke ground on an $18.5 million expansion that will add 5,000 square feet of meeting space. A new 18-hole Nicklaus-designed golf course will open in June.
In Bretton Woods, Mount Washington Resort expects to open new convention space in early 2009, bringing the convention center to 30,000 square feet.
The Westin Providence, the convention center's headquarters hotel, unveiled a 32-story tower with 200 guest rooms, bringing its room count to 574.
Last summer, the $100 million Renaissance Providence Hotel opened, the combination of a restored 1929 Masonic temple and a new nine-story addition. The 272-room hotel has 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
In Newport, the 264-room Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island finished a $30 million renovation this spring.
The 50-suite Inn at Newport Beach reopened in April after interior renovations and a 26-suite addition.
Harbor Walk is Boston's newest public walkway, with parks, boat ramps, cafés, exhibit areas, interpretive signage, waterfront museums, and great views of Boston Harbor. Visit www.bostonharborwalk.com for an interactive map and downloadable audio.
Boston ranked third and Cambridge sixth on Popular Science magazine's list of “greenest” cities in the U.S., based on criteria such as electricity use, air quality, and recycling programs.
A new Boston-New York City bus service, BoltBus, offers free wireless Internet, seat-back electrical outlets, and low fares. www.boltbus.com
New Hampshire hotels are offering gas vouchers (up to $100) and other discounts to ameliorate the pain of rising gas prices. The state's tax-free shopping also promises savings. www.VisitNH.gov and www.nhmeetingsites.com
Ask the CVB
Greater Hartford CVB
Greater New Haven CVB
Greater Portland Casco Bay CVB
Maine Office of Tourism
(888) 624-6345; www.visitmaine.com
Greater Boston CVB
Cape Cod Chamber
Worcester County CVB
Manchester Area CVB
Mount Washington Valley Visitor's Bureau
Newport County CVB
Providence Warwick CVB
Vermont Convention Bureau
(802) 860-0606, ext. 204
If it's lively, abstract, and mostly tangerine-colored in downtown Providence, R.I., it's Tazza, a café featuring coffees, funky drinks, lunches, dinners, and plenty of room for group functions. Tazza's bar is etched with poetry and eclectic drawings, and the walls are a display space for students from the Rhode Island School of Design. An old-movie loop plays on the rear wall. (401) 421-3300; email@example.com
Tour the Victorian Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Conn., and stay for a meeting or event in the Museum Center's 40-seat classroom or 178-seat auditorium. Or, have a reception and dinner in the Great Hall after a private tour of the home's elaborate rooms, which were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The 19-room, 1874 mansion contains many of Twain's possessions. (860) 247-0998; www.marktwainhouse.org
The new Connecticut Science Center opens this fall next to the Connecticut Convention Center on the Riverfront in downtown Hartford. Designed to be LEED-certified for energy efficiency and built with recycled materials, this innovative building will bring the world of science, as well as special event space, to the area. Conference and facility rentals for private, corporate, and association use are available, including the 2,000-square-foot Travelers Science Hall. (860) 727-0457; www.ctsciencecenter.org
On Newport, R.I.'s exclusive Goat Island, Belle Mer special event venue offers 18,000 square feet of indoor function space, surrounded by acres of grounds and orchards. The Main Salon has a large stone fireplace with high ceilings lighted by crystal chandeliers. It can seat 500 guests. The Water Salon looks out onto Narragansett Bay through 10-foot, all-glass walls. (401) 841-0330; www.bellemernewport.com