Insider Report: New England

Stowed Away
New hotel in northern Vermont to feature area's largest meeting facility

The first hotel to be built at Mount Mansfield, Stowe's historic ski area, the Stowe Mountain Lodge will have 139 guest rooms, a 21,000 sf spa, an 18-hole golf course, and more than 10,000 sf of meeting space when it opens this spring. Clad in woven timbers and locally quarried stone, the classic lodge building will house the five-way divisible, 5,400-sf Tamarack Ballroom with its floor-to-ceiling windows and capacity for up to 611 guests theater-style and 580 for a reception, as well as four 650-sf breakout rooms. Outdoors, the 1,530-sf Tamarack Terrace will look out onto the mountain.

"With the addition of Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe is destined to become not only the greatest resort in New England but the preeminent luxury mountain resort experience in the U.S.," said James Horsman, vice president and managing director of the development.

According to Stowe Mountain Lodge spokesperson Lorin Seidman, the lodge can offer up to 100 room nights to groups, but overflow can be accommodated by other luxury resorts in the area, including the Trapp Family Lodge and the Stoweflake Resort. The lodge will host its first event in May and celebrate its grand opening in June. Seidman said the meeting space is sold out in June, but the resort is now accepting bookings for July and beyond.

"We're getting a lot of Boston-based financial groups, incentives, and high-level executive retreats, but also some insurance and financial associations," said Seidman, adding that automotive companies have also expressed interest in Stowe for new product launches.

MeetingNews Q&A: Connecticut Casinos Go Head to Head

Both of the major casino resorts in Connecticut—Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun—are expanding again: The 824-room MGM Grand at Foxwoods hotel and casino opens in May, while the Mohegan Sun is adding a new 919-room hotel tower in 2010.MeetingNews recently chatted with Foxwoods executive director of resort sales Joan Esneault and Chris Perry, vice president of hotel sales and marketing at Mohegan Sun.

Q From a meeting planner's perspective, what is the most important recent development at your property?

Joan Esneault: The MGM Grand will add a 50,000-sf ballroom, a 15,000-sf ballroom, and outdoor meeting space, and bring a well-known national brand for entertainment and the convention business.

Chris Perry: The expansion is going to bring more of everything our repeat guests have enjoyed, including 11,000 sf of new meeting space and a 1,500-seat House of Blues theater. Plus, we're doing great things with our Mohegan Sun Arena, allowing groups to use it for exhibitions, receptions, even teambuilding.

Q How do the recent improvements of your property give you an edge over other meetings facilities in the region?

Esneault: Under one roof, we'll have 160,000 sf of meeting space, celebrity-chef restaurants, a spa, and outdoor meeting space—all in a Las Vegas-style atmosphere. We'll have the largest pillarless ballroom in New England plus 2,200 guest rooms in one property.

Perry: Our service is extraordinarily consistent; we've had virtually zero staff turnover since we opened in 2001. And the product is only going to get better. For example, we just bought a golf course last year to make this more of a destination resort.

Q How will the expansion and improvements at your property change your appeal to meeting planners?

Esneault: Before,we were typically doing groups of 150 to 300. Now we can have groups of over 1,000 people, even 2,000 people, with 1,200 to 1,300 room nights rather than 600.Rather than just serving regional corporate groups and associations, we're now in the position to attract national groups that we couldn't before.

Perry: It will allow larger groups. The expansion will get us to 1,100 rooms per night. Most meeting groups are now Sunday to Thursday, but now we can start marketing into 2010 up to 350 or 400 nights on weekends. It opens up all new markets for us, particularly incentives and national associations.

Q Do you think the downturn in the economy will affect group sales at your property?

Esneault: Foxwoods offers good value compared to city hotels—no parking fees or resort fees and room prices considerably lower than New York or Boston. I think companies will be looking for places that offer real value, and Foxwoods is in a good position to offer that. We haven't seen a decline in the market yet.

Perry: We haven't seen a downturn, and I think it actually could work in our favor. Two-thirds of the U.S. population is east of the Mississippi, and we could find people wanting to stay closer to home. If managers can't justify the cost of sending groups to primary cities, we could be the option for them.

Q Is group business becoming more or less important to you?

Esneault: Group business is becoming more important because with MGM Grand,we now have more than twice our previous meeting space. MGM Grand is mostly going to be focused on conventions.

Perry: I believe group business will become more important because with the gaming industry growing in the region, and Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun expanding, we need to increase the mix. We do have a bigger need to fill rooms with group business during the week.

Manchester Museum Grows
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH, reopened in March after a $21.4-million expansion that added a variety of meeting and event space, as well as new galleries that allow the museum to display more of its European and American art collections.

"We've always had space for small corporate events, but the expansion has added a 3,000-sf Winter Garden, a light-filled open space that can hold 120 guests for a sit-down dinner or 300 to 400 for cocktails," said Karen Tebbenhoff, marketing and public relations manager for the museum. "In itself, that's a huge change from before. It will serve as a cafe during business hours and be available for private rentals during closed hours."

A 180-seat, AV-equipped auditorium also was added, along with a seminar room that seats up to 25 and two classrooms seating up to 60 each.

Westin Copley Place Unveils $13-Million Makeover Job
The Westin Copley Place Boston has completed a $13-million renovation of its meeting and event space, including a redesign of the hotel's three ballrooms—52,000 sf in all. The Staffordshire Ballroom was expanded, and advanced AV and lighting were added to the Essex and America ballrooms, but the most visible aspect of the renovation was the contemporary makeover by architect Peter Niemetz that added colors like beige, cream, taupe, and celadon in the design.

"We've incorporated edge design with refined style, making these spaces the ultimate in event destinations," said Niemetz.

Maine's White Barn Inn Acquires Meeting Facility
The luxury White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, ME, has acquired Chase Hill Center, a Kennebunkport riverfront meetings and events facility with four function rooms and an outdoor deck. Chase Hill is suited for groups of up to 50,with catering provided by the White Barn Inn or Stripers Waterfront Restaurant.

Regent Boston Opening Soon
The Regent Boston at Battery Wharf, scheduled to open early this summer in Boston's North End, will have 150 luxury rooms, 6,200 sf of meeting space, an 18,000-sf Guerlain spa, and a restaurant by three-star Michelin Chef Guy Martin of Le Grand Vefour in Paris. The hotel will have a total of seven meeting rooms, two of which will be divisible.

—Section written by Bob Curley

Originally published April 7, 2008