Long Beach: The Southern California Urban Oasis Continues to Innovate

This urban oasis in the heart of Southern California continues to innovate as a transformative meetings destination

Long Beach Convention Center downtown

It's been a little over a year since the grand opening of the groundbreaking Pacific Ballroom in Long Beach, CA, and the city continues to be an innovator when it comes to hosting meetings and events. The new ballroom has proven itself to be a worthwhile investment. Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (LBCVB), says the ballroom has booked more than $58 million in business, with another $84 million pending.

Goodling says the ballroom's flexibility -- its ability to morph into a variety of settings and environments -- is its greatest advantage. "The savings that planners are incurring by having all the lighting and sound in the truss system -- to have that turnkey, blank canvas of a ballroom -- has created a buzz."

Daniel Clancy, vice president of sales and event services for Vision Global Event Services, has done conferences in a wide range of convention centers throughout the country, but says "Long Beach is the only convention center that has this much versatility already built in. I can use it in 10 different ways, and I'm not spending an extra $30,000 on décor."

Plans are underway to construct a new pedestrian bridge at the 400,000-square-foot Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, making it even easier for attendees to walk throughout the downtown "campus" of venues, hotels, and restaurants. The new bridge is expected to open in 2017.  

That all-in-one neighborhood feel held great appeal for Mary de la Fe, manager of meetings and conferences for Alexandria, VA-based Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA). PRIMA held its annual convention for more than 1,300 attendees at the convention center in June 2014.

"We want to make sure people can stay at their hotel and, for the most part, walk to wherever they need to go," she says. "Long Beach had all of that."

Going forward, the LBCVB is also hoping to create more collaboration between the destination and its visitors. "People want an environment where attendees can have a dialogue -- that's where you get your ROI," says Goodling. "That's why you're going. And today's buildings need to satisfy that basic requirement for a conference nowadays."

Questions or comments? Email dting@ntmllc.com

This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.