San Francisco Goes Big on Meetings

An expanded Moscone Center adds to the city's myriad group offerings.

Moscone Centers expansion

San Francisco has long been a beloved destination for meetings and events, and the city begins the new year coming off a record-breaking 2018. According to projections by the San Francisco Travel Association, the City by the Bay drew a total of 26.1 million visitors in 2018 (up 2.4 percent from the year before), and $9.4 billion in visitor spending (up from $9.1 billion in 2017). Business from meetings and conventions was an important part of the mix.

"On the convention side, San Francisco Travel has been aggressively booking the expanding Moscone Center for many years into the future," said Joe D'Alessandro, SF Travel's president and CEO, in a statement. "There are currently 1.2 million definite room nights booked for 2019, the largest number ever for a single year."

The $551 million expansion of the Moscone Center was unveiled on Jan. 3, 2019, adding more than 157,000 square feet of flexible meeting space to Moscone North and South, creating a contiguous space of more than half a million square feet -- making it by far the largest single exhibit space in Northern California. The new Moscone Center now comprises 1,139,775 square feet of usable space, including lobbies, terraces and meeting space, with a new 50,000-square-foot, column-free ballroom, expanded lobbies in Moscone's North and South buildings, and an enclosed pedestrian bridge connecting Moscone Center to Howard Street.

For those looking to take their groups to more unconventional venues, this city is hard to beat. The recently renovated Exploratorium offers a memorable hybrid of science and art, with interactive exhibits and a number of unique spaces such as the Fisher Bay Observatory and Terrace, which features waterfront views and space for up to 200 attendees at a standing reception.

AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, welcomes groups with a wide range of tours and private-event options. The Gotham Club features a pair of speakeasy-style social clubs, complete with private dining space and bowling lanes, while across the street, Cooperstown S.F. provides groups with 6,000 square feet of event space in the midst of memorabilia from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Giants Enterprises, the management team that oversees AT&T Park, also operates the 125,000-square-foot Pier 48 indoor event venue, as well as the Yard at Mission Rock, a "village" of shipping containers filled with local shopping and F&B options.

Recent Additions
The newly opened Virgin Hotels San Francisco offers "funktional" meeting spaces that incorporate play, such as ping-pong conference tables, minigolf hallways and life-sized Jenga areas. The 2,124-square-foot Manor, which can hold up to 126 people theater-style, as well as the 1,898-square-foot terrace lounge are ideal for a more relaxed social gathering.

Last summer, the Marriott San Francisco Union Square completed a renovation of its 401 guest rooms (including 53 suites), incorporating a color palette of gray and blue, and the installation of art inspired by the "Summer of Love." The property offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space, which can host groups of up to 320.

Coming Soon      
The Yotel San Francisco, which opens in March in a vintage 1905 building, has restored original design elements like exposed-brick walls, arched windows and a marble staircase. But while it showcases its history, the hotel has all the modern amenities a group could ask for, including 203 "cabins" that feature adjustable SmartBeds, mood lights and smart TVs. A restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Patterson makes up part of the rooftop terrace.

This summer will see the debut of the 351-room Grand Hyatt at SFO, which will offer more than 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,760-square-foot grand ballroom and 18 breakout rooms ideal for those flying in to the nearby airport. Visitors also can take advantage of the three-meal restaurant, Paper Crane, serving Asian classics such as sushi, dumplings and ramen alongside Western dishes. The hotel also will have a market/lounge concept, a Hyatt StayFit gym and the 18-hole Poplar Creek Municipal Golf Course, all designed to help the property earn LEED Gold certification.

Further into the future, the city is expected to welcome a couple of high-profile luxury hotels. A new Langham Place is being designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano (the man behind such buildings as Paris' Centre Georges Pompidou), with approximately 200 guest rooms and 20 floors. The opening is expected in 2021.

The following year will see the debut of the 21-story, 171-room Waldorf Astoria San Francisco. Located in the Transbay neighborhood, the hotel will feature a spacious spa and restaurant, and will serve as a highlight of a 2 million-square-foot, mixed-use complex with luxury entertainment, retail and office space.