Atlantic City is honing in on meetings and conventions
Famous for its beach activities and gaming, Atlantic City is in the process of a major transformation that is expanding its focus to attract more meetings and conventions.
“When gaming was introduced back in 1978, Atlantic City shifted its long-standing focus from a meetings destination to a gaming-centric destination,” says Jim Wood, president and CEO of Meet AC, a nonprofit organization established in 2014 to boost the city’s meetings and convention trade. “Now that gaming has found its way into our neighboring states, the gaming model has changed. Thus, we are going back to our city’s roots and looking to become more of a meetings and convention destination.”
Wood says that for the foreseeable future, leisure will still be very important to Atlantic City.
“However, the growth of the [business and meetings] group market remains a very critical success factor that will help lead Atlantic City into the future,” he says.
Several hotels and resorts in the city have already expanded to better accommodate groups. The most significant recent development was the opening of Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center on Sept. 17.
The new conference center features 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, thereby expanding ’s space from 20,000 sq. ft. to 170,000 sq. ft. This has contributed heavily to a huge increase in the number of room and event bookings, including Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress June 11−14 and TEAMS ’16, the world’s leading conference and expo for the sports-event industry.
“The nearly $130 million investment that Caesars made in Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center is a bold statement that Caesars is looking to diversify its mix of business,” Wood says. “Once dependent on the gaming customer, Caesars is now looking ahead and recognizing that the group customer is valuable, and the company has applied a tremendous amount of resources to show the meeting planner world that ‘Caesars Means Business’ [one of the company’s slogans].”
This summer, completed a $50 million renovation that includes meeting spaces. The project also completely revitalized the casino area and added the AtlantiCare LifeCenter Fitness facility and the spectacular Tropicana Multimedia Light and Sound Show. The 434 guest rooms in the North Tower are receiving upgrades that are expected to be completed by summer.
Tropicana now features more than 122,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 2,078 guest rooms, making it one of New Jersey’s largest hotels. The Quarter—a vibrantly colored, three-story streetscape that captures the exotic splendor of historic Havana—features 200,000 sq. ft. of retail, dining, entertainment and spa experiences, including an IMAX theater.
has unveiled its $5 million conference center, consisting of 15,000 sq. ft. divided among 12 rooms. The multifaceted center features the latest in audiovisual technology. The property now offers 64,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 24 meeting rooms—14 with natural light and ocean views—and four ballrooms.
After participating in a full day of meetings, attendees are ready to have some fun. Atlantic City has traditionally boasted plenty of exciting, enjoyable options, and more are being added to the mix as an influx of business groups head there.
“Several new entertainment attractions have been announced that we feel will appeal to groups,” Wood says. “There also are some fabulous plans, and we remain cautiously optimistic that these plans will get done in the near future.”
, which opened on June 26, 1870, was the first boardwalk in the United States and has become an American icon. Initially a health resort area, it occupies a 5 1/2-mile stretch, with ocean views on one side and casino/hotels, amusements, retails stores and restaurants on the other side.
The big news at the boardwalk’s is that a 220-foot observation wheel is scheduled to open this spring. It will feature 42 climate-controlled cabins that can provide heat in midwinter and air conditioning during a summer heat wave. The observation wheel, a $14 million project, is expected to run 365 days a year except during extreme weather.
Steel Pier, a 1,000-foot-long stretch of amusement options, extends over the commanding Atlantic Ocean and features more than 25 exciting extreme rides, many food options and an amusement arcade filled with challenging games. Groups of 25 or more receive a discount on the all-day ride pass. Custom-designed events can be arranged.
The AAA Four Diamond plans to build a $14 million state-of-the-art nightlife experience called Premier Nightclub in place of Mur.mur and the already-shuttered Mixx. The new 18,000-square-foot venue, which is expected to give the boardwalk’s nightlife a much-needed shot in the arm, will open in the spring. Borgota also is in the process of expanding its meeting space by adding more rooms. Details have not been released.
One notable, though not new, place for meeting groups is. Built in 1926, it was the city’s primary convention center until Atlantic City Convention Center opened in 1997. Boardwalk Hall now features a wide variety of stellar entertainment and is playing a major role in Atlantic City’s resurgence.
The venue, located on the boardwalk, offers group discounts for shows and can be rented. It contains a modern special events arena capable of seating up to 14,770 and Adrian Phillips Ballroom, with 23,100 sq. ft.
One of the most exciting new developments is that the boardwalk may soon be home to a 350-foot-tall Polercoaster—a vertical roller coaster that would leave a very small physical footprint. The attraction would also include a nightlife component and bar.
The project has been approved by Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and would be built on the one-acre lot where the Sands Casino Hotel once stood. Plans call for the project to break ground early next year, but it is contingent on New Jersey economic incentives such as tax rebates.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa turned an outdoor spot not being used into Festival Park, a 4,500-capacity venue that hosts concerts and festivals. The park, which also includes a bar and pingpong tables, encompasses about 50,000 sq. ft. and sits adjacent to the hotel.
Holtzman Gallery at the Claridge opened in March in what used to be the floor of the hotel’s casino. It features works of more than 50 artists, from local to world-famous. The venue also is available as a special-event space for business functions, parties and more.
The Playground is a remagining of the area formerly known as Pier Shops at Caesars. A concert venue, 39N, has already opened there and restaurant, nightlife and other entertainment venues soon will be added to the existing high-end shops.
Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, which opened last year at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, features two 50,000-square-foot ballrooms and two 25,000-square-foot reception/social areas. Atlantic City leaders are hoping that the conference center will play a leading role in transforming Atlantic City into more of a business and meetings destination. The conference center is the largest hotel-conference center complex from Baltimore to Boston, and is within easy driving distance for one-third of the U.S. population.
Major Meeting Venues
Seaside location, near downtown; one of the East Coast’s largest convention centers; 486,000 sq. ft. of contiguous meeting space; 45 meeting rooms provide an additional 109,000 sq. ft.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic City Boardwalk; 1,760 guest rooms; casino; restaurants include Guy Fieri’s Chophouse; 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; three ballrooms, including 12,000-square-foot Ocean Ballroom, which overlooks the boardwalk.
Open since 1929; popular venue for shows and events, including the annual Miss America Pageant; home to the world’s largest musical instrument, a pipe organ with more than 33,000 pipes; discounted tickets, preferred seating and personalized attention available for groups at every event; planners can arrange to use arena, capable of seating up to 14,770, and Adrian Phillips Ballroom, with 23,100 sq. ft.
Luxury resort north of downtown; 2,000 guest rooms; The Water Club at Borgata offers 800 more exclusive rooms and an additional 18,000 sq. ft. of contemporary and inventive meeting space loaded with advanced technology; five fine dining restaurants; two spas; 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Beachfront resort with elegant, Roman theme; 1,144 guest rooms; 15 restaurants; world-class shows and concerts; luxurious Qua Baths and Spa; 28,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.
Gold Rush-themed property; 740 guest rooms; nearly 80,000-square-foot casino; live entertainment; eight restaurants; full-service spa and salon; 630-slip marina; 42,712 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Marina setting; 2,587 guest rooms; 11 restaurants; tropical pool transforms into a nightclub, The Pool After Dark; new Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center provides two 50,000-square-foot ballrooms and two 25,000-square foot reception/social areas; 20,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting space.
Overlooks the boardwalk; five-minute walk from Steel Pier amusement park; first hotel/casino in Atlantic City; split into two towers; 942 guest rooms; LandShark Bar & Grill is inspired by beach joints that once occupied the Atlantic; Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville offers live entertainment Friday and Saturday nights; more than 64,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Boutique, high-rise hotel; one block from the beach and boardwalk; 332 guest rooms; Teplitzky’s features retro-chic dining; Windows on the 5th at the Chelsea is a fantastic space for seaside celebrations and a variety of special events; Sea Spa has an outdoor saltwater pool; 29,800 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, including 15,000 sq. ft. on fifth-floor pool deck.
Inspired by Havana’s former Tropicana casino; $50 million renovation completed last year included makeover of 434 hotel rooms and added multimedia sound-and-light show on the boardwalk facade and 12,455-square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness center; IMAX theater; 122,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 52 rooms.