by Alex Palmer | December 07, 2017

The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center (LBCEC) has long been a pioneer of innovative event space and that continued Dec. 4, with the opening of its new Rainbow Bridge. The 605-foot elevated pedestrian walkway, designed and built through a partnership between the LBCEC, the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city's management team, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, provides both logistical and aesthetic benefits to groups holding gatherings at the venue.

The $10 million bridge runs parallel to the shore along Seaside Way, across from the oceanfront convention and event center. The latest addition to the LBCEC's ongoing $60 million renovation and upgrade project, the bridge features an arched canopy meant to evoke the rolling shape of a breaking wave. Its elevated position provides expansive views of the city, with benches and foliage to create a park-like feel during the day. At night, the bridge is illuminated by 3,500 LED lights, 100 downlights, and 70 floodlights, all of which are programmable for groups looking to create musical lightships or add their branding to the venue

"It enhances the entire project and experience," says Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach CVB. "You walk out of the exhibit hall and within roughly 50 feet, you hit the Rainbow Bridge and it takes you across the Terrace Theater Plaza." From there, Goodling says, visitors look down over The Cove, a flexible event venue that is "awash in LED lights, giving it a vibrancy and excitement. It's a huge complement to the building and the downtown."

This addition comes after the opening four years ago of the Pacific Ballroom at the Long Beach Arena, which can reshape its interior design, and even its walls and ceiling height at the touch of an iPad according to the preferences of visiting groups. That was followed by the opening of The Cove,which is a street-party venue offering groups an under-the-pier themed experience. The convention center has not stopped there. Following the holidays, water fountains will be added to the plaza, offering synchronized shows of light, water, and sound.

"We're using a firm with new technology out of Italy," adds Goodling. "It's all wireless speakers and they have great sound. They're integrated with the Plaza now." With the accompanying infrastructure improvements, he adds, "we can accommodate up to 5,000 people on the Plaza for events."

While plenty is happening at the convention center itself, there is no shortage of offerings in Long Beach's downtown and beyond. For example, the Aquarium of the Pacific boasts more than 11,000 animals spread across 50 exhibits. This world-class education and research facility is the largest aquarium in Southern California, and as an attraction showcases the ecological diversity of the Pacific Ocean,. The group-friendly venue is going to wrap up its first-ever expansion this year, the 29,000-square-foot Pacific Visions, which will include an immersive theater and interactive seating, as well as an exhibit gallery, art gallery, and front pavilion. 

The city offers numerous world-class accommodations, including the 150-room Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach, set in the downtown waterfront entertainment district. The property offers more than 5,800 square feet of meeting space, the Rooftop 360° cocktail bar, and the casual Bay Street Bar, as well as the Southern California-infused Bay Street Kitchen. 

The 199-room Hotel Maya - A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, set on 11 acres of palm-tree-packed landscape, offers more than 30,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including an expansive ballroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean and downtown skyline. Its on-site restaurant Fuego specializes in fresh seafood and ceviche, and offers an extensive wine list as well as Latin-infused cocktails. Those seeking a more boutique experience can check in at the 35-room Varden Hotel. First built in 1929, it incorporates European design style and its almost 90-year history with high-tech amenities and luxurious amenities.

Visiting groups will find Long Beach loaded with innovative meeting venues, top-notch accommodations, as well as a feeling of community.

"There is a mixture of locals, residents, and visitors that creates a real community atmosphere," says Goodling. "Our visitors love to check out what locals do, and vice versa."