GAMING VENUES ARE becoming increasingly popular for all kinds of meetings and incentive programs. Boston-based John Hancock Life Insurance Co., for instance, has begun holding training meetings at gaming properties in Connecticut or Atlantic City in the east, and Las Vegas in the west. John Touchette, CMP, who heads up John Hancock's meeting management department, cites affordable airfare and hotel space, as well as the built-in entertainment offered by gaming destinations.
In Las Vegas alone, upcoming insurance and financial services meetings include the Million Dollar Roundtable in June, The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers Association in September, State Farm Insurance in September, and the National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors in September 2004.
At the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, a new hotel tower is scheduled for completion in June. It will add 1,013 suites, a pool deck themed after a Venetian garden, and 150,000 square feet of additional meeting space. The new tower's suites will be larger than the existing Venetian suites, which were named “the largest standard hotel rooms” by the Guinness Book of World Records. The Venetian claims to have the world's largest privately owned convention center: The Venetian Congress Center and The Sands Expo together now comprise more than 1.8 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space. Also on property are a Canyon Ranch spa and two Guggenheim Museums.
Scheduled to open this winter, the 350-room Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas Resort will be on the shores of Lake Mead, 20 minutes from Las Vegas. The Ritz is a component of the resort's Italian-inspired Montelago Village, featuring shopping and residential condos. Guests will have preferred tee times and convenient access to the resort's Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-hole golf course.
Mandalay Bay plans to debut its $200 million convention center and all-suite hotel tower (with 1,125 suites) in October 2003. The convention center will have 1.8 million square feet of space.
Completion of a third, 925-room hotel tower at MGM Mirage's Bellagio resort is set for December 2004. A mid-2003 start date is planned. The project includes the tower, expansion of the Bellagio spa and salon, 60,000 square feet of meeting space, and an additional 5,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Caesars Palace will debut the $95 million, 4,000-seat theater, The Colosseum, in March with a Céline Dion concert. Dion is scheduled to perform regularly at the theater.
Atlantis Casino and Resort's $75 million expansion includes the recently opened glass Sky Terrace; a 27-story luxury tower; 20,000 additional square feet of convention, meeting, and special event space; and an indoor/outdoor pool and health spa. The convention facilities' expansion includes 5,000 square feet of grand ballroom expansion, 5,000 square feet of event space, and 2,500 square feet of breakout meeting space for a total of 32,000 square feet of space.
The final phase of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Casino's $60 million renovation will include a spa, a multi-tiered swimming pool, and the rebuilt 150-room Aspen Terrace wing. The project is expected to take 16 to 18 months. The new pool and Aspen Terrace are scheduled to reopen in summer 2003.
The Borgata, a $1 billion entertainment resort with 2,010 hotel rooms, a 135,000-square-foot casino, and 70,000 square feet of event space, will open in summer 2003 with complete banquet and catering facilities. It will offer talent booking and express check-in for groups.
Harrah's Atlantic City opened its new 25-story Bayview Tower in May, increasing its total room number to 1,626. It also debuted expanded gaming space. The 452-room Bayview Tower features a light show with as many as 42 different light configurations that can be seen for miles. The total investment: $200 million.
In April, Aztar Corp. began a $225 million expansion of its flagship Tropicana Casino and Resort. The expansion, with a March 2004 completion date, will add The Quarter, a 200,000-square-foot indoor dining, entertainment, and retail complex; a hotel tower with 502 rooms designed to cater to convention and meeting customers; and a 20,000-square-foot meeting and convention facility, with the entire top floor of the tower dedicated to boardrooms and hospitality suites with ocean views.
Park Place Entertainment Corp. is seeking permission from New Jersey gaming regulators to merge the Claridge Casino Hotel with Bally's Atlantic City. If permitted, it would create the Boardwalk's largest casino resort. With the addition of the new Claridge Tower, the new Bally's would have 1,753 hotel rooms and 21 restaurants. Park Place Entertainment has made improvements to the Claridge, including renovation of 500 rooms, scheduled for completion in 2003, and renovation and reconfiguration of the second-floor casino.
A $4 million expansion of the Tunica Arena & Exposition Center, Tunica, Miss., was completed this fall. The new covered arena will seat up to 500.
In Biloxi, on the Gulf Coast, the 1,780-room Beau Rivage, an MGM Mirage Resorts property, can accommodate 1,800 people in its 50,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes the 17,000-square-foot Magnolia Ballroom. In a project set for completion this spring, it will expand its number of suites to 100.
INFORMAL ELEGANCE characterizes The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a 261-room property perched on the edge of the Pacific in a bucolic landscape about 30 minutes south of San Francisco. With two 18-hole golf courses (both on property) and a fabulous spa, Half Moon Bay is a great choice for top-tier incentive groups looking for upscale resort amenities plus easy access to city attractions. Our group of 30 insurance planners got a taste of a typical incentive program: two theme parties complete with props and period sets; a gourmet dinner featuring regional cuisine and hilarious entertainment at the posh Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco; a tour of the beautiful Half Moon Bay coast and lunch at a local winery; and a choice of activities that ranged from kayaking to hiking to shopping. Along with all the expected Ritz-Carlton luxuries, the resort has more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space and high-speed Internet access in every guest room.
— Regina Baraban