The biggest news in town is the new convention center, combined with the media attention and local investment it has already begun to draw in, according to Schuyler Bull, director of marketing for the Albany County CVB.
“Construction kicked off with an implosion of an old existing building on the site,” Bull says. “It literally kicked off with a bang.”
With work under way, the Albany Convention Center is scheduled for completion in late 2016 or early 2017. It will drastically expand the variety of events and gatherings the city is capable of hosting.
“We’re diversifying the business we go after and putting in new, bigger bids, including for a few NCAA sporting events over the next few years,” Bull says.
Scaled down from original plans, the $66 million center will offer a 25,000-square-foot multipurpose room, 18,000 square feet of prefunction space and a 10,000-square-foot junior ballroom.
“The impact is already evident,” he says. “Hotel upgrades are under way and we’re expecting more investment as well.”
Lodging projects include a renovation and reflagging of the 74 State Hotel, which became the Fairfield Inn & Suites Albany Downtown. The historic building features 74 guest rooms and a boardroom.
The 200-room DeWitt Clinton Hotel will be renovated and rebranded as a Renaissance by Marriott. Slated to open in July, it will debut a year or two earlier than the convention center, which it will be connected to when both are completed. The DeWitt Clinton will offer meeting space, including a ballroom, in addition to other amenities.
The convention center will have access to more than 1,000 area hotel rooms, and can be combined with the 15,000-seat Times Union Center Arena and the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.
“Big groups can book any combination of the three venues, allowing great flexibility,” Bull says.
However, Albany hopes to retain its standard draws for meeting planners, being a smaller, affordable destination with easy access from Boston, Montreal and New York City.
Bull also encourages planners to leave time for attendees to explore the region’s bountiful nature offerings, including the John Boyd Thatcher State Park, where attendees can hike a trail that runs behind a waterfall, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and Cohoes Falls, the second-largest waterfall in the state after Niagara Falls.
History-oriented venues include the New York State Capitol, which hosts receptions; the New York State Museum; and the Albany Institute of History and Art, which originally opened in 1791 and is full of great exhibits and plenty of meeting space.
“The big new trends are culinary, sustainability and experiential travel,” Bull says.