The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center recently underwent a $35 million renovation that added social lobby space matched by several networking pods for attendees to gather.
“Because we’ve hosted the TED conference for five years, we’ve watched how they utilized our space,” says Steve Goodling, president/CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We noticed that networking is an important component for them, so we wanted to create a collaborative environment where attendees could connect.”
Goodling says the promenade is designed like the O’Hare Airport Terminal with a glass atrium that provides an inviting space for attendees to network and connect less than 20 feet from the convention center entrance. Networking pod spaces adorned with couches and individual seating are scattered throughout.
Private event restaurant Bogart & Co. opened on the west side of the center, providing an intimate lounge for parties and receptions and social space for attendees. The space features a bar made of textured brick and dark wood, large steel columns, leather chairs, medallion lights and customized LED-lit walls; contemporary chairs and wooden tables are available outside.
The center’s Long Beach Arena, known for touting the world’s largest mural, Planet Ocean, completed the $7 million, loft-style Pacific Ballroom in November. The new 45,000-sf ballroom provides a blank canvas for up to 5,500 meeting planners to get creative.
The advanced space is highly customizable with electronically operated curtains that lower from the ceiling to conceal upper deck seating. The ballroom area features a grid of truss systems—complete with a $1.6 million LED, stage lighting and sound system—that provides an environment for everything from intimate dinners to concerts up to 5,500 people.
“We possibly have the only 45,000 sf space in the U.S. with a truss system that flies up and down and customizes ceiling heights for the planners,” says Goodling. “To do what we created would cost a meeting planner over $400,000 to create the elements for the night. It’s a turnkey element because it’s already in place.”
The ballroom is unlike a traditional ballroom in that meeting planners can adjust the mood or atmosphere of the space using the high-tech lighting and sound system. Goodling compares the experience to renting a theater and customizing it for meetings.
“The response from clients who are seeing the space is that there’s nothing like it anywhere,” says Goodling. “The cost savings alone makes it stand out. People can have an event that only they could dream of because it’s now practical and affordable.”