It was indeed prophetic that the 1962 World’s Fair, which celebrated the Space Age by unveiling such wonders as a monorail transit system and the iconic Space Needle, happened in Seattle. As home to Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and many other innovators, Greater Seattle has proven itself time and again as a welcoming environment for technology, science and engagement.
As such, it only makes sense that the metro area is also a welcoming environment for meetings requiring state-of-the-art tech amenities and learning opportunities for attendees. There is no shortage of meeting facilities and off-site venues that deliver in this regard, according to Robert Hampton, vice president of convention sales and services for Visit Seattle.
“When meeting planners are looking at Seattle, science and technology are top of mind,” he said. “We’re a hotbed of great tech companies that are either based here or have a big presence here. Seattle has the credibility.”
Because Greater Seattle is a major tech hub, hotels and venues are challenged to deliver the kind of amenities that its local corporate clients expect, he added.
“Good technology is an expectation of every customer, but when you have a customer like Microsoft you really have to demonstrate that you value them,” Hampton said. “In many cases, our local tech customers have been able to advise those of us in the hospitality industry on what we need to do.”
Seattle’s wealth of science and technology innovators also makes the city a good source for speakers and presenters at meetings, he said.
“We can provide access to some of the top minds in the country,” Hampton said. “Plus, a lot of tech associates who meet here know their attendance will be high.”
In addition to a major expansion of the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC), expected to break ground this fall and open in 2020, the existing facility recently updated its technological features, significantly boosting its wireless and fiber-optic connectivity. The convention center, which features an extensive art collection, also partnered with STQRY, an app that enables visitors to locate and explore the sculpture, paintings, multimedia and other works on display.
Other tech-forward meeting facilities include the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, an IACC-certified facility that offers 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space in a complex with panoramic views of Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
When it comes to innovative off-site venues, Seattle Center, originally the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, has a stunning array of options that include the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle.
Built as the Fair’s U.S. Science Pavilion, the Pacific Science Center retains its stunning Mid-Century exterior of towering arches and reflecting pools, but has been updated with IMAX theaters, hands-on science exhibits, laser light shows, a planetarium and a tropical butterfly aviary. The center can host anything from intimate dinners to lavish events for up to 4,000 guests.
Offering event space at its SkyLine level for up to 350 guests, the Space Needle recently added new digital experiences. Its 520 Teleporter and SkyPad kiosks enable visitors to create personalized digital photos and enjoy virtual experiences around the city, including getting on the field with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
Also new is the Space Needle 360 app, which when used with VR headsets enables planners to take virtual tours of Seattle Center’s event possibilities. These include the Ultimate Block Party, a multi-venue bash that can accommodate more than 2,500 people when combining MoPOP, the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, MoPOP (formerly the Experience Music Project) is filled with interactive exhibits pertaining to rock music, science fiction, fashion and more. Event spaces include Sky Church, which offers a massive video screen for productions and holds up to 500 people.
Recently relocated to the spacious Naval Reserve Building in Lake Union Park, the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) has an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia, including souvenirs from the World’s Fair, neon signs from bygone establishments, maritime objects and products from local businesses.
Endowed by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, MOHAI’s Bezos Center for Innovation features lectures, special programs and interactive exhibits pertaining to Seattle’s role as a nexus for big ideas and new concepts. MOHAI offers several spaces for private events, including the Grand Atrium, Lakeview Terrace, Lakefront Pavilion and West Patio.