Goodbye big-box, bunkeresque venues. Hello green rooftop micro-environments, wellness spaces and hip street-party-scapes with food trucks and industrial-chic decor installed below outdoor overpasses. It’s as cool as it gets when it comes to today’s convention centers.
We set out to discover how new and upgraded facilities are catering to the ever-evolving interests of the market and blazing new trails when it comes to architecture, design, technology and amenities. Here are four of the hottest convention centers on the planet nowadays.
Once sitting in the shadow of longtime SoCal standbys like Los Angeles and San Diego, ever-vibrant Long Beach is basking in the limelight nowadays, especially when it comes to inimitable event experiences. Most recently, fireworks, a laser light show and Cirque du Soleil-style aerialists lit up the night for the December grand opening of the Rainbow Bridge, the third element of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center’s dynamic, $60 million renovation.
The $10 million, 605-foot elevated pedestrian walkway is a bold artistic and architectural statement that enhances the image of the city and the experience for both locals and convention attendees alike, according to Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach CVB.
“It’s a pedestrian bridge and an art piece, so it’s a functional art piece,” he said.
When lit, the arched canopy reflects the contour of a wave, and the LEDs can be tailored to project unique scenes.
“When you have 3,500 LEDs each individually programmed, it creates a myriad of images, with lights dancing up and down and a cascading wave breaking or perhaps a ‘Starry Night’ Van Gogh scene. There are so many possibilities,” Goodling said, adding that the design of the overall bridge was modeled a bit after the High Line in New York City, with seating areas and landscaping that encourage attendees to pause, collaborate and enjoy city views.
The Rainbow Bridge and the other new features are based on cues taken from the designers of the TED conference, which was held in Long Beach for five years.
“The two key takeaways from TED were creating environments where people can collaborate and connect and creating special environments that really wow attendees,” Goodling said.
One of the center’s hippest new environments opened last summer: The Cove. Featuring an atmosphere of cool urban elegance, The Cove is set in the area below an overpass outside the center, and its highlights include liberal and creative use of the setting’s concrete pillars and ceilings, with crystal chandeliers, starfish and other marine motifs adorning the spaces overhead, while street murals bring new life to the setting. A local food truck scene, bars, picnic tables, sleek seating areas with fire pits and diversions like glow-in-the-dark table tennis are available to groups that choose to meet at the space.
“We’re seeing younger planners desiring very unique environments for attendees like Millennials, so we wanted to set new trends and make our venues turnkey experiences for groups, which means they don’t have to pay extra for things like lighting and rigging,” Goodling said. “We’ve already imagined these unique spaces for them.”
Goodling said The Cove has impressed so many attendees and planners, that one city’s CVB has already visited Long Beach to determine how to emulate the first-of-its-kind, turnkey convention center experience.
Another such reimagined space that has been turning heads is the center’s $10 million Pacific Ballroom. The 40,000-square-foot venue, which was unveiled in 2013 as the first part of the multiphase renovation, offers groups a New York City loft-style party setting.
Next up: this summer’s debut of a $2 million Bellagio-style fountain in the center’s Terrace Theater Plaza that will offer a water show choreographed to sound and lights. The plaza, backdropped by its new fountain, will accommodate 5,000 bright-eyed guests for events.
It seems “dazzled” will continue to be the operative word used to describe attendees gathering in Long Beach.
The Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) can now be seen from space. And based on the stellar reviews of Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), it appears the ACC has arrived at the latitude of other world-class convention facilities.