New York State Grows its Group Offerings

Modern amenities and stunning landscapes attract meeting groups to the Empire State

Ausable Lake Adirondack Mountains

Lower Ausable Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York is one impressive vista among many in the region

From the spectacular peaks of the Adirondacks to quaint downtowns and the more than 100 wineries that dot the Finger Lakes, New York State offers a wealth of opportunities for groups. Stunning natural landscapes abound in the rolling hills of Saratoga, Albany, and Cooperstown, and in wilderness enclaves including the six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

But there are plenty of man-made wonders in the region as well. Albany has a new state-of-the-art convention center, the Albany Capital Center (ACC), that opened March 1 in downtown, with 90 booked events through 2021 that will bring the region an estimated $26.5 million in spending. The $78.5 million convention center is just steps from the State Capitol.

"This new convention center is key to the continued economic development of this area and will play a pivotal role in drawing events and visitors from around the country," said New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo when he announced the opening in March. "This modern convention facility will help ensure that the capital region remains competitive for years to come, while also having a significant, positive impact on the community."

SMG, the manager of the ACC, has booked 62 events for 2017 that will span 101 days of activities. This year's gatherings will also result in 3,750 hotel room nights, of which more than 3,200 are new business for Albany. An additional 28 events have already been booked through 2021.

"After years in the making, the entire Albany Convention Center Authority team applauds Governor Cuomo for having the foresight to build this economic generator," says Gavin Donohue, chairman of the Albany Convention Center Authority.

With nearly 160,000 square feet of combined meeting and event space, the Capital Complex will be the largest meeting space in upstate New York. The Complex comprises the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, operated by the New York State Office of General Services; The Egg, a performing arts center; the new Albany Capital Center; and the Times Union Center arena.

The Albany Capital Center features full-service convention and meeting spaces on two levels that consists of 10,000 square feet of fully divisible meeting space and a 3,000-square-foot full-service catering kitchen on the first level. On the second level, it offers a 22,500-square-foot ballroom/convention space that can be configured to create separate 15,000-square-foot and 10,000-square-foot areas.

Since 1797, Albany has been the state capital of New York, and artist Dahl Taylor captures its spirit inside the main lobby of the ACC in a mural with an emphasis on industry, culture and arts, history, natural beauty, and transportation. He has also created two additional panels that chart the growth of Albany from a small riverside settlement to a thriving state capital.

"Dahl Taylor has given us a wonderful gift," says Doug McClaine, ACC's general manager. "We truly believe we've created one of the most impressive venues in upstate New York, and this mural really adds to the overall ambience once you step through our doors, creating a great impression from the start."

In addition, the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau has worked with ACC and web design firm Spiral Design to create an interactive website to accompany the murals.

"We hope to inspire visitors to explore all this region has to offer: natural beauty, a vibrant arts scene, and a history that spans four centuries," says Michele Vennard, president and CEO of Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

MEET - Tarrytown House Estate
It is said that in 1964, Tarrytown House Estate became the nation's first conference center. Described by The New York Times as a "campus for hire," the Estate has played host to thousands of gatherings. While this property has existed as a conference center since 1964, the Estate dates back as early as 1840. Today, it offers 30 meeting rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

DINE - Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Sourcing from the surrounding fields, farm, and pasture as well as other local farms, this gem highlights the culinary abundance of the Hudson Valley. Under the guidance of Dan Barber, its executive chef and co-owner, this is considered to be one of the best restaurants in America.

PLAY - Saratoga Race Course
Internationally renowned Saratoga Race Course is a historic Thoroughbred horse-racing track built in 1863 and is considered to be the oldest sporting venue in the country. The past comes alive in this historic grandstand every summer.

The Spa City
Less than an hour north of Albany lies Saratoga, a destination known for its world-class equine sports, and healing mineral springs. Hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts are centered around the vibrant, historic downtown, which also boasts memorable dining establishments, eclectic shops and galleries, and an energized nightlife.

The Adelphi Hotel, in the heart of downtown, is in the final stages of a multimillion-dollar restoration, scheduled to open at the beginning of July. The property, established in 1877 during Saratoga's Golden Age, has been reimagined with an emphasis on modern luxury. Highlights include the restoration of the 11-foot-high ceilings and grand staircase upon entry, as well as the revival of The Adelphi's legendary hotel bar, which will be named after well-known Saratoga resident John Morrissey, and a 1,200-square-foot glass-walled conservatory, which will house The Adelphi's new restaurant, The Blue Hen.

A new grand ballroom can accommodate up to 250 guests and opens up to the serene landscaped and beloved Adelphi Gardens. The original hotel had approximately 74 rooms when it was built in the late 1800s, but the new property will have 32 to offer a more spacious experience.

The 242-room Hilton Saratoga, a hotel attached to the Saratoga Springs City Center in downtown that has 58,000 square feet of meeting space, is also wrapping up a multimillion-dollar renovation.

The Gideon Putnam, situated in the heart of Saratoga Springs State Park, has 124 guest rooms, including 22 suites, and more than 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space. The property houses 10 function rooms, some of which accommodate 500 guests, including a renovated ballroom. The historic Roosevelt Baths & Spa here offers 42 original treatment rooms and a selection of mineral baths, massages, and over 60 treatments to choose from.

Albany Capital Complex (159,000 sf); Buffalo Niagara Convention Center (110,000 sf); Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center (100,000 sf); Saratoga Springs City Center (32,000 sf); Syracuse's Oncenter Convention Complex (over 200,000 sf); Westchester County Center (55,320 sf)



 Albany County CVB
 Buffalo Niagara CVB
 Mohonk Mountain House
 The Sagamore Resort
 The Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa

Affordable Meeting Destinations
Diverse attractions and amenities that rival larger markets, affordable pricing, accessibility, and a supportive, cooperative hospitality industry make Rochester an attractive meetings option. Rochester offers four major hotel properties in the convention district: the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside and the Hyatt Regency Rochester (connected to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center by a skyway), and both the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown and the Holiday Inn Rochester Downtown, a short walk way.  

Less than an hour-and-a-half by car is another popular New York destination for meetings: Syracuse. Its Oncenter Convention Complex offers over 200,000 square feet of space with more than 600 sleeping rooms within a five-minute drive. Attractions include the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology, Everson Museum of Art, and the world's largest indoor suspended ropes course at Destiny USA, New York's largest shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.

Thirty miles east of Syracuse sits Turning Stone Resort Casino, a dynamic property that has undergone a $20 million renovation -- one of the most extensive upgrade projects of the resort in its 23-year history.

Features include a brand-new gaming floor, six casual restaurants in an all-new food hall, and 285 newly appointed guest rooms in the AAA Four Diamond--rated Tower hotel.

"Turning Stone is one of the leading tourist destinations in the region," says Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and Nation Enterprises CEO. "We are deeply committed to world-class service and being responsive to our guests -- and then matching that commitment with guest-driven investments." He adds that this new project reflects that legacy, showing "our dedication to offering superior amenities and consistently evolving and elevating the guest experience at Turning Stone."

Buffalo is another budget-friendly New York destination that has undergone a remarkable transformation. From a redeveloped waterfront to revitalized neighborhoods and a burgeoning craft beer scene, Buffalo has received over $1 billion in new investment.

Another area of the state that has all the attractions, hotels, and meeting space in place to accommodate groups is Westchester County. From Kykuit, John Rockefeller's palatial, six-story Beaux Arts mansion, to the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art to Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown, unique venues abound.

"There is no shortage of arts and cultural experiences in Westchester," says Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino.  In hotel news in the area, a $10.5 million Westchester Marriott renovation is under way, as is a $5.2 million renovation at the Sheraton Tarrytown updating its guest rooms, lobby, meeting space, restaurant, and fitness center.

The 369-room Doral Arrowwood Resort's $4 million worth of renovations has brought in new technology, refurbished guest rooms, and brand-new meeting rooms in the Doral Executive Center featuring the Overlook restaurant with views of the golf course and lake. Set on 114 wooded acres in Rye Brook, the Doral Executive Center includes 110,000 square feet of event space, a 174-seat amphitheater, two 50-seat amphitheaters, as well as meeting and event rooms. An executive boardroom features an exclusive dining room, butler service, and private concierge.

Westchester County has also seen significant growth in the agritourism sector. The "Westchester-Grown" Farm Trail is a New York State--designated route that spans 17 miles across Westchester County, providing an opportunity to see and taste some of the county's freshest products, and building upon the county's historic agricultural roots and cultural richness.

In other hotel news, the Emerson Resort & Spa, located in the heart of Hudson Valley's scenic Ulster County and a 20-minute drive from downtown Woodstock, recently underwent a $6 million renovation that included new accommodations and a signature restaurant, Woodnotes Grille.

Inspired by the resort's location in the Catskills Mountains, as well as poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 20-acre property showcases its natural surroundings and embraces pet-friendly amenities, a dedicated dog park, and the world's largest kaleidoscope. Included in the renovation was its full-service 6,193-square-foot Emerson Spa.

Also soon to be unveiled is The Wick, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, which this fall is bringing the brand's indie vibe to the vibrant tourism destination of Hudson, NY, with an adaptive reuse project. This former candle factory has been transformed into a property with 55 guest rooms, a conference room, and services for smaller retreats.

Last May, The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point celebrated its 90th anniversary. Perched on a bluff with commanding views of the Hudson River and the United States Military Academy, this is the only full-service hotel between New York City and Albany that sits on the Hudson River.

The Thayer has 151 guest rooms, including 23 executive suites, half with views of the Hudson River and the others with views of the mountainside. There are 15,000 square feet of meeting space in six conference rooms that all have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River and Valley.

Be it Upstate, Downstate, or the Hudson River Valley, New York State boasts the urban allure of Manhattan as well as the scenic beauty found in millions of acres of protected wilderness, more than 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails, lakeside mountain retreats, and charming hamlets waiting to be discovered.

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This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.