The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center (pictured) includes a wide range of flexible event spaces
Long Beach, CA is probably best known for its sand, sun, and cool waves -- "beach" is in its name, after all. But as the coastal city continues to develop its meeting offerings and expand its attractions, it is being recognized for what it can offer for business, as well as leisure.
The jewel in the crown of Long Beach's meetings offerings is the 400,000-square-foot Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. Offering 34 meeting rooms, a grand ballroom, three exhibition halls, the Long Beach Arena, and Terrace Theater, the venue is really dozens of venues, able to flexibly accommodate all variety of gatherings.
"Long Beach continues to add to its turnkey facilities, saving event planners tens of thousands of dollars," says Steve Goodling, president and CEO of Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Depending on the size, scope, and number of facilities and assets a planner requires, the savings can range from $40,000 to $400,000 dollars."
Even after the completion of its $40 million renovation and upgrade, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center continues to undergo continuous improvements. The most recent of these is the completion of a new venue that combines the center's Terrace Theater lobby and Terrace Plaza to create a striking indoor/outdoor event site. It comes complete with theatrical lighting and pre-installed overhead trusses, from which planners can suspend lighting and other decorations, as well as a range of chic furniture laid out to accommodate impromptu meetings.
This new venue continues the destination's efforts to create spaces that provide what Goodling calls "turnkey facilities" for planners looking to simplify their meetings' logistics, while reducing costs. The first of these venues was the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Arena, opened in 2013, which booked $104.1 million in new business and won no shortage of design awards.
"I have used many ballrooms and facilities in many cities and none come close to the experience I had at the Pacific Ballroom in Long Beach," says Billie Robinson, MBA, CAE, director of meeting and convention services for the Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses. "It is by far the most state-of-the-art venue of its kind you will find anywhere and is a big reason we plan to return to Long Beach. This is a one-of-a-kind venue and you can only find it in Long Beach. One of the most advanced and flexible venues I have ever used."
MEET - Aquarium of the Pacific
Home of more than 11,000 animals (including 150 sharks in the Shark Lagoon and a menagerie of striking birds in Lorikeet Forest), this venue also provides a wide range of unusual meeting spaces. These include a Watershed Classroom, which brings the venue's green roof inside; the spacious front lawn; and the aquarium's Great Hall.
EAT - Parkers' Lighthouse
Long Beach is serious about its seafood, and Exhibit A is this restaurant, known for its mesquite-grilled seafood and some of the best views you can find in the city. The restaurant accommodates groups of most sizes and boasts an impressive wine and sushi menu.
PLAY - Queen Mary
This historic World War II troopship has been restored and maintained since its final voyage in 1967. Attendees can book a tour, dine at the on-board Chelsea Chowder House, or even spend the night on this liner.
ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS & FACILITIES
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center (400,000 sf)
Pinnacle Awards Go To:
• Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Pacific Ballroom's "all-inclusive" lighting and sound systems means lower setup costs, which the CVB cites as particularly helpful to nonprofit organizations (Ronald McDonald House, Memorial Hospital, and Molina Healthcare are a few of the organizations that have held events in the space). But the destination won't be slowing down once the Terrace Theater Lobby and Plaza is complete.
"Our next upcoming venue will be our Seaside Way entry porte-cochere," says Goodling. "We are creating a street party, food truck-style event space which will feature dramatic crystal chandeliers, eye-catching street art murals, and customizable LED lighting installations."
Beyond the ever-evolving convention center, Long Beach also boasts a wide range of hotel, dining, and entertainment offerings. That includes 100 restaurants (from casual Cali-Mex spots to high-end seafood) within an eight-block radius in downtown, and more than 5,000 hotel rooms, which have undergone more than $105 million in renovations in recent years.
Among these properties is the 216-room Courtyard Long Beach Downtown, which can host a banquet for 250 guests. It includes facilities such as an outdoor pool (it's a rare day you need to swim indoors in Southern California), fitness center, business center, as well as the locavore-appealing James Republic restaurant, and The Market -- all within walking distance of the convention center.
Planners can also consider the Latin American-inspired Hotel Maya -- a Doubletree by Hilton hotel. The 199-room property, set on 14 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, emphasizes its connection to the local environment, with earthy furnishings and art, 500 palm trees scattered throughout the property, and the 6,500-square-foot "Playa at the Maya" resort-style beach.
Groups that are looking to go a little bigger can consider the Hilton Long Beach. This 398-room property offers high-speed Internet throughout the hotel, as well as 26,000 square feet of flexible meeting space consisting of 14 meeting rooms, including the 9,700-square-foot ballroom. The adjacent executive meeting center boasts high-tech A/V equipment rental, video conferencing, and on-site support.
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This article appears in the January 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.