With a $7 billion renaissance transforming Atlantic City from a gaming town into an all-around resort, the city is actively courting meetings and conventions. The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACC&VA) has implemented "AC Meetings Express," a program that provides available hotel dates and rates in less than 48 hours. The ACC&VA is also contacting more than 1,000 meeting planners twice a month with hotel updates and availability.
The Greater Atlantic City Golf Association has come to the fore in promoting golf. With nine member courses and 30 hotels providing a variety of golf packages, the association is committed to making golf a year-round attraction at the Jersey shore.
Atlantic County has a history when it comes to golf. The term "birdie" was coined at the Atlantic City Country Club, the legendary 101-year-old club sold last year to Hilton Hotels Corp. The breezy 6,669-yard bayside course is now accessible to guests of Bally's Park Place and Atlantic City Hilton.
Sam Snead won his first big PGAat Marriott's Seaview Resort; the Sand Barrens Golf Club is considered by many to be the area's most exciting course.
Atlantic City hotel news * Resorts Casino Hotel is undergoing a $30 million renovation, scheduled for completion in July, that will include all public spaces, the casino floor, and all 498 guest rooms in its main tower.
* In June, Caesars Atlantic City officially opened its new porte cochere, expanded casino floor, Rotunda restaurant, and Bacchus Bar, the culmination of three years of design and construction. The $280 million expansion also includes the 620-room, 26-story Centurion Tower, the 18,000-square-foot Palladium Ballroom, and four new meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 75 each. The tower brings the total room inventory to 1,144 and meeting space to 45,000 square feet.
* Caesars is planning on spending $250 million to turn its Ocean One Mall into a Roman-style city, with hotel rooms, a casino, restaurants, entertainment venues, and retail outlets.
* The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort opened a $60 million addition in the fall of 1997 that included a 300-room hotel tower, increasing the total guest room count to 804.
* Bally's Park Place opened a $100 million Wild Wild West Casino in July 1997.
* Harrah's Atlantic City completed an $81 million expansion last June that added a 16-floor hotel tower with 416 new guest rooms, bringing its total to 1,174.
* Stephen A. Wynn, chief executive of Mirage Resorts, plans to build a resort in Atlantic City next to a planned resort owned by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Co. Wynn's $750 million Le Jardin Hotel & Casino is expected to have 2,000 rooms. The Boyd property, as yet unnamed, will have approximately 1,200 rooms, meeting and convention space, five to seven restaurants, and major retail outlets. The two projects are scheduled to break ground in the fall of 1999 and to be complete in 2002.
* MGM Grand plans to spend at least $700 million to build a casino resort on 35 acres next to the Showboat Casino Hotel. The resort will house 2,000 hotel rooms, but it has not been announced when construction will begin.
Association Meeting Planners Say The New Jersey Water Environment Association has been holding its annual convention in Atlantic City for more than 50 years, and Jack Lagrosa, executive director of the association, says he's seen a great change in the city recently. "The new convention center, the entranceway, the whole city in general is improving," says Lagrosa. "Steve Wynn should also make things happen." (Stephen A. Wynn, chief executive of Mirage Resorts, plans to build the $750 million, 2,000-room Le Jardin Hotel Casino in the Marina District with a grand opening scheduled for February 2001.)
Over 2,000 people attend the NJWEA convention, including superintendents, engineers, academics, and municipal government officials all involved in the water environment field, and Lagrosa says Atlantic City is the only New Jersey destination that can handle this size group. There are not only five days of meetings and seminars, but a three-dayas well. The association uses the 1,600-room Tropicana Casino and Resort, the largest hotel in the state.
The NJWEA plans a multitude of activities for its spouse program and the new Hard Rock Cafe, All Star Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not have added variety to this program, says Lagrosa.
Venue Menu * Garden Pier juts out into the ocean from the Boardwalk and is home to the Atlantic City Art Center and Museum and the Atlantic City Historical Museum and Cultural Center. The Historical Museum has a hall that accommodates up to 150, and meeting executives can arrange to erect a tent on the pier for larger events. For more information, call the Historical Museum and Cultural Center at (609) 347-5839.
* For a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk and casinos, bring the group to the oldest working winery in the United States, the Renault Winery, less than a half hour outside of the city. The winery dates back to 1864, and the grounds include over 1,400 acres of vineyards and gardens and streams for spectacular outdoor functions. Indoors, banquet facilities that can accommodate up to 300.Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 1999 on a hotel with meeting facilities and a golf course. (609) 965-2111.
* The Noyes Museum of Art on Lily Lake Road, just off Route 9 in Oceanville 15 minutes outside of Atlantic City, is a little gem, available for group functions up to 225. (609) 652-8848. The giant, earth-shaped wrecking ball that looks like it is splitting a building apart on The Boardwalk is the facade of the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. The 12,000-square-foot museum featuring illusions, puzzlers, and interactive displays is available for cocktail parties and receptions of up to 350; you can also hold scavenger hunts for groups of 40. (609) 347-2001.
Money Matters * $$ Sales Tax: 6%
* $$ Luxury Tax: 6%
* $$ Fees: $2 per night at casino hotels; $1 per night at noncasino hotels
* $$ Hotel Tax: 5%
CVB Contact Atlantic City CVB: (609) 449-7110 FAX: (609) 345-3685 www.atlanticcitynj.com