Originally published May 22, 2006 in MeetingNews
Meeting attendees at the Long Beach Convention Center now can take full advantage of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, a recently completed entertainment center that had been opening in stages since 2003.
The $130 million, 369,000-square-foot development overlooking Queensway Bay in downtown Long Beach takes its name from the Coney Island-style amusement park that once sprawled along the waterfront during Long Beach's heyday as a Navy town.
But now, instead of juke joints and tattoo parlors, the new Pike features venues like a 14-screen Cinemark Theatre, GameWorks, Gladstone's Seafood and the popular Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
Just as the Aquarium of the Pacific brought attention to town when it opened in 1998, the Pike has created a new perception of Long Beach and brought new visitors to downtown, said Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"Many remember Long Beach the way it was five, 10 or more years ago. They usually don't have an idea it has changed," Goodling said. "But once they arrive, what they discover is a compact, fun-filled urban environment next to the Pacific Ocean."
And it's versatile: "Some people bring their families and enjoy it during the day, but we're also finding a lot of people who look at it as a special evening out dining along the waterfront or going to GameWorks to celebrate an occasion."
During a site inspection, Keely McNerney of Alexandria, Va.-based KM Associates, who is bringing a meeting to Long Beach this October, found the Pike to be very clean and easy to navigate.
"It definitely benefits the area to have the stores and restaurants right across the street from the convention center," McNerney said. "We had drinks at GameWorks; it was well run and clean, and it would be a fun event venue for the right group."
Also across from center is Pine Avenue, another bustling entertainment area with dozens of restaurants and nightclubs. New to Pine is the Sevilla, a three-story, Spanish-themed restaurant with nightclub dancing on the top level.
The Pike and Pine Avenue are both group-friendly. "When meetings break at the end of the day, people spill out around the center," said Goodling. "The Pike and Pine both get a lot of activity. More clubs, such as V2O Club or GameWorks, are being bought out for the evening as off-site venues, and now with the Sevilla open, with its large dance and entertainment floor, that too will be a buyout opportunity."
Goodling said that once people see how new development has changed the downtown footprint, "We have a high probability of having their endorsement for a meeting or convention."