It’s been 15 years since then-Mayor Gerald Jennings convened the task force that solicited the first proposals for a new-build convention center in New York’s capital city of Albany. Two years later, in 2004, then-Gov. George Pataki formed the Albany Convention Center Authority (ACCA) “to meet an immediate need to institute a comprehensive, coordinated program of convention activities in the city of Albany.”
The ensuing decade saw plans and funding for a convention facility evolve in fits and starts. Then, in March 2015 the old Wellington Hotel annex in the heart of downtown was imploded, and the days of inching forward were over as the excavators moved in and the steel went up on the $75 million Albany Capital Center (ACC).
As ACCA Chairman Gavin Donohue commented during a media walk-through last November, “…for years the convention center was just a dream; now look how far we’ve come.”
With the ribbon-cutting confirmed for March 1 and official opening on March 2 in conjunction with the MAAC basketball tournament, the contemporary 82,000-square foot, two-level ACC completes the four-venue, 159,000-plus square-foot Capital Complex, creating Upstate New York’s largest group facility.
The ACC is expected to attract an additional 150,000 attendees to the Capital Region with an estimated economic impact of $36 million, plus fiscal benefits of nearly $1 million annually for New York state, Albany County and the city of Albany.
With economic development also continuing to drive group growth in nearby Saratoga Springs, the Capital Region, seat of government for four centuries, can now add meetings headquarters to its Empire State resume.
Culminating years of patient, strategic recovery from post-industrial decline, the ACC, following investment in projects like the adjacent 203-room Renaissance Albany Hotel and the nurturing of a local high-tech, innovation-driven economy, represents a crowning investment in Albany’s future.
“The Albany Capital Center will be a vital component of attracting new meetings and conventions to the city,” said Michele Vennard, president and CEO of the Albany County CVB. “This additional 82,000 square feet of space, plus upgrades to the adjacent Times Union Center and Empire State Plaza, now allows us to attract and host larger meetings, tradeshows, sports tournaments and other events than in the past.”
Connected to the Times Union Center, Empire State Plaza and Renaissance Albany Hotel via fully enclosed, climate-controlled walkways to The Capital Complex, the ACC offers 22,500 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space, six meeting rooms encompassing 9,200 square feet of space, and 13,500 square feet of prefunction space. By design, the clear-span ballroom can accommodate three full-size basketball courts, supporting tournament play at the Times Union Center.
Other features include abundant natural light, state-of-the-art technology and a 3,000-square-foot, full-service catering kitchen, with dining provided by long-time regional leader Mazzone Hospitality.
Largely New York-built, including 12 contracts with Capital Region construction firms, the venue notably met its goal of 22.75 percent Minority- and Women- Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) participation, representing some $13 million in contracts. And, consistent with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s focus on green initiatives, the venue incorporates efficient water, heating and lighting systems, including a roof-mounted solar panel system.
Welcoming its inaugural group March 23-25, the 79th Annual Conference of the New York State Council for the Social Studies (NYSCSS), the ACC, with a capacity of 5,000 delegates, is set to capitalize on the strong meetings momentum of recent years.
“Along with the NYS Council of School Superintendents, NYSCSS was among the first contracts signed for the new facility,” Vennard said. “Both are organizations that we haven’t been able to host previously.
“Meetings mean big business for Albany,” she continued. “In 2016, travelers spent $1.9 billion in our region, generating $124 million in taxes and supporting 15,400 jobs. Business travel constitutes the bulk of Albany’s visitors, and the ACC and Capital Complex will help build that market, and keep us competitive with other cities.”
The new venue is also catalyzing invigorated interest and investment in the city.