Given its arresting combination of scenic splendor and innovative spirit, it’s little wonder that Greater Seattle is one of the most sought-after and dynamic emerging major meetings destinations going. Not content to rest on its reputation, however, the metro region continues to add new venues, attractions and resources that are keeping its appeal fresh for newcomers and long-time visitors alike.
With a bevy of hotels slated to open this year and a new convention facility about to break ground, Seattle is gearing up to welcome more meetings than it has in the past, according to Kelly Saling, vice president of convention sales for Visit Seattle.
Construction is expected to start by summer on a major expansion of the downtown Washington State Convention Center. Plans are for a free-standing building a block and a half away from the current facility that will include 255,000 square feet of exhibition space on two levels, as well as 120,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a 60,000-square-foot grand ballroom. Its opening is projected for 2021.
“While the new facility will allow us to book larger groups that will use both buildings, that’s not really its major intent,” Saling said. “What it will do is allow us to bring in additional groups to the city. Right now we have to turn away or pass up bidding on some business just because we don’t have the availability.”
Also creating more room for groups will be the new Hyatt Regency Seattle, the largest hotel in the city. It is set to open in November across from the new convention center site with 1,260 rooms and will boast over 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including two 20,000-square-foot ballrooms.
“The Hyatt will anchor the new convention facility, much in the same way the Sheraton Seattle does for the existing center,” Saling said. “In effect, we’ll be able to offer two separate campus settings for groups.”
Located directly across the street from the convention center, the Sheraton Seattle recently completed a $53 million renovation of all 1,236 guest rooms, adding new architectural details such as walnut wood finishes and custom-made barn doors with inlaid mirrors.
The hotel offers over 75,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
While Seattle currently gets about 70 percent of its convention business from associations, especially medical, the expansion will boost the city’s ability to accommodate more short-term corporate business, she added.
New hotels also include the 146-room Moxy Seattle Downtown, which recently opened near the Amazon headquarters in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Another newcomer will be the 282-room Embassy Suites Seattle Downtown- Pioneer Square, which is set to open in May near Century Link Field. Its ballroom will offer seating for up to 545 theater-style and an outdoor terrace. It will feature a six-story atrium for welcome receptions and an executive boardroom.
Meanwhile, penthouse suites will offer views of Seattle and Elliot Bay.
There are other enhancements downtown such as MarketFront, a recently completed expansion of Pike Place Market, the first addition to the iconic waterfront landmark in over 40 years. With panoramic views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, it offers stall areas for artists, farmers and purveyors as well as space for special events.
“This really connects the market to the waterfront and opens it up for group gatherings,” Saling said. “There has long been demand to use Pike Place as an off-site venue, so this is very exciting.”
Also new on the waterfront is Wings Over Washington, a multi-sensory “flying theater” adjacent to the Seattle Great Wheel on Pier 57. The attraction shows a feature film using 5K cameras and laser projection that takes viewers on a virtual ride over Elliott Bay, the San Juan Islands, Cascade Mountains and other scenic locales.
South of Seattle, Tacoma is also on the move with more group appeal, including enhancements to its vibrant Museum District, which includes the Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, America’s Car Museum, Children’s Museum of Tacoma and other attractions.
Construction is also expected to start on a 303-room, Marriott-branded hotel that will be connected to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center when it opens in 2020. The hotel will offer a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and an additional 9,000 square feet of breakout space.
“The new hotel will give us a seat at the table for larger meetings and increase our ability to host multiple groups at one time,” said Chelene Potvin-Bird, vice president of sales and servicing for Travel Tacoma. “With the additional meeting space, large groups can be concentrated in just two or three downtown hotels.”
On tap for a 2019 completion is a conversion of the century-old, Beaux-Arts-style Elks Lodge, which McMenamins Inc., Oregon-based developers who specialize in historic restorations, will operate as a 44-room boutique hotel. It will feature multiple live music venues, bars and event spaces. Also expected to open next year is the 194-room Silver Cloud, a waterfront hotel near Point Defiance Park in Ruston.
The Tacoma Art Museum is set to expand with the Benaroya Wing next winter, which will house collections of international studio art glass and paintings and sculptures by Pacific Northwest artists. It will also give the museum additional event space.
Especially strong in the association market, Tacoma emphasizes its walkability, convenience to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and hotel rates that average less than those in Seattle or Portland, according to Potvin-Bird.
“We really offer the whole package, with great museums close to the convention center and free light-rail running through the town core,” she said. “Plus, there are so many ways for groups to engage with our destination—glass blowing, ziplining, hiking on Mt. Rainier or taking a gondola ride up Crystal Mountain.”
West of Seattle on the shores of Lake Washington, Bellevue is a thriving meetings destination, particularly in the tech sector, according to Jane Kantor, director of sales for Visit Bellevue.
“Microsoft, which is just east of us in Redmond, drives a lot of our business,” she said. “Plus, we also get a lot from other tech companies like Salesforce and Google as well as start-ups and even a growing number of Chinese companies opening up offices in our area.”
With corporate demand high, especially during midweek, Bellevue is easily absorbing new hotel growth that has seen the opening of properties such as AC Marriott Bellevue, Hampton Inn and W Bellevue, which debuted last summer with 242 rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
“The W has really become to place to see and be seen,” Kantor said. “It’s got a lake house feel with porch swings, waterfront views and amazing local art, including huge colorful wall murals.”
Also adding energy to the city is Lincoln Square South, a hub for dining and the new Lincoln South Tower, a high-rise office building topped by Ascend Prime Steak and Sushi on the 31st floor. The restaurant, which offers 360-degree views of metro Seattle, offers private dining areas and space for events.
While space is at a premium in Bellevue during the week, the city offers affordable rates and good availability for weekend meetings, including association groups in the range of 600 to 1,200 people, according to Kantor.
Adjacent to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the district known as Seattle Southside encompasses the communities of Tukwila, SeaTac and Des Moines, offering about 8,000 hotel rooms.
Its major off-site venue is the Museum of Flight, which recently unveiled a major new exhibit called Apollo devoted to the Space Race of the 1960s.
Hotel options will expand this spring when Hotel Interurban opens in the Seattle Southside market. Standing 19 stories high, the hotel will become the tallest building in the city.
It will offer 185 guest rooms and more than 15,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces, including the 5,000-square-foot Rainier Room on the 19th floor, with its views of Mt. Rainier.
North of Seattle, groups will find a range of venues that include the Lynnwood Convention Center and Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in Everett. Its major meetings property is the Tulalip Resort Casino, which offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Tulalip Tribes recently broke ground on a $98 million casino property with a 150-room hotel in Tulalip that will replace the existing Quil Ceda Creek Casino when it opens in spring 2019.
Greater Seattle CVB Contact Information
Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority
Snohomish County Tourism Bureau
Visit Bellevue Washington