As California's “Middle City,” Long Beach meetings are growing in popularity. While at AIBTM in Chicago this past June, we spoke with Megan Rodriguez, public relations manager for Long Beach CVB to learn more about new renovations, meeting hotels and citywide attractions within the oceanfront town. The city sits in a centralized location in Southern California, within swift distance to Los Angeles and other parts of Orange County.
Prevue: What is it about Long Beach that attracts large groups?
Megan Rodriguez: We have plenty of activities and offerings for groups, but we also are in a convenient location, so if you wanted to extend the trip and visit L.A., you can get there within 20-minutes driving time. We are also home to a large cruise port, offering quick trips to Mexico from Long Beach.
What is new in the area?
The Long Beach Airport just completed a $140 million renovation. The renovation added several amenities, including fire pits and a wine bar. You can order your food on an iPad while you are waiting for your flight and the staff will deliver it to your seat directly, serving totally fresh and sustainable cuisine. We have about 340 days of sunshine per year, which means that we really want to utilize outdoor space – even at the airport. It also includes a large atrium with a garden, with great sky views and solar panels to help with the concourse energy needs. We are also within close distance to LAX and John Wayne International Airport.
What is the latest addition to the city?
Our largest piece of news is that the 400,000-sf Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center recently completed a $40 million renovation. The renovation was tired over the last couple years, making the space more of a social hub for meetings and events. We wanted to create a community of collaboration. We added social pods where people can break on campus and network. The renovation also included upgrades to the green/VIP rooms and the onsite theater. The newest addition is the new 6,425-sf Bogart and Company meeting space. This area can accommodate any kind of group, it's a totally customizable space.
The Long Beach Arena is a 50-year old space that we recently converted into a ballroom. The grand opening launch is scheduled next month. The purpose behind the $7 million project is to be able to convert the popular concert venue into a loft-style ballroom for a large amount of attendees. Basically, groups can take of the 45,000-sf floor and create any type of event. The biggest draw is the new floating tension grid, covering the arena seating using curtains. We have had so many groups come in and they were looking for a space large enough to hold 5,500 people for a reception. We were getting a lot of demand and now we have booked $27 million in business and the space hasn't even opened yet. The best part is that there's an inclusive program with all lights and A/V. It really allows you to focus on the ballroom floor and divide it however you want.
What are the most popular meeting hotels in the area?
The Hyatt Regency Long Beach, connected to the convention center. The Renaissance Long Beach Hotel is located across the street. The Westin Long Beach Hotel is also nearby. A short walk away from the convention center is the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center. We have national brands and boutique hotels for groups to choose from. We also have the Queen Mary. It's an attraction, a hotel and an event space. Queen Mary has 346 guestrooms, 14 meeting rooms and 45,000-sf of exhibit space. There are so many spaces on the Queen Mary that groups use. Currently, the venue is showcasing the Princess Diana exhibit.
What makes Long Beach perfect for group meetings?
One of the best things about Long Beach is the connect-ability and the walkability. Even from a dining perspective, we have everything from hot wings to haute cuisine. You can quickly take a free bus around the city. The city is really an urban, waterfront playground. We have a 5.5 waterfront bike/walking trail and several neighborhoods that have something to offer, including the East Village Arts District with galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
There's great value as opposed to going to L.A. and Anaheim. That way, they can experience the theme parks in Anaheim and the attractions in Las Angeles, but stay here. It's very centralized.