by Linda Hayes | January 01, 2017

For many associations, a new year brings with it plenty of opportunities for growth. And a gathering in the Empire State might just be the place to map out a fresh course for the future. After all, New York is a state that has long embodied success, innovation and inspiration.

Attendees tend to see the bigger picture in New York and planners will relish all the options, from the spectacular to the elegantly simple.

New York City: Trendsetting

More than 1 million square feet of event space, world-renowned attractions and five ever-burgeoning boroughs combine to offer endlessly diverse agendas and diversions in the “city that never sleeps.” New York City also boasts the nation’s most active hotel-development pipeline, with 107,000 hotel rooms currently available and a total inventory of more than 133,000 expected by the end of 2019.

“As one of the world’s most anticipated destinations to hold a meeting in 2017, the ‘new’ New York City will offer meeting planners dynamic new venues and incentives,” said Jerry Cito, NYC & Company’s senior vice-president of convention development. “Investments in new Lower Manhattan hotels, a 1.2 million-square-foot expansion of the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side and infrastructure upgrades at both LaGuardia and JFK airports will ensure that New York City is ready to welcome even more world-class meetings, conventions and events in the years to come.”

In June, New York City will be the host city partner of the 2017 Education Conference of the Professional Convention Management Association, expected to draw more than 600 meeting planners and suppliers. “New York City is a perfect destination for PCMA’s diverse global audience,” said Deborah Sexton, the organization’s president and CEO. “The Marriott Marquis’ Times Square location and flexible event space will ensure that our 2017 Education Conference participants have an optimal education and networking experience.”

In Manhattan, the silver LEED–certified Jacob K. Javits Center is on the cusp of a $1 billion expansion project that will enlarge it by 1.2 million square feet, amounting to a fivefold increase in meeting-room space. Currently, the Javits Center features 840,000 square feet of exhibit space on four levels, including the column-free, 80,000-square-foot Javits North; kitchens that can prepare simultaneous meals for up to 10,000 attendees; a 45,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed pavilion; and high-speed wireless service throughout the facility that can serve up to 70,000 at the same time.

Lower Manhattan continues to experience an exciting renaissance with new hotels, shops, celebrity chef–owned restaurants and attractions. “Lower Manhattan’s remarkable revitalization over the last 15 years is a cornerstone of the ‘new’ New York City,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company.

Highlights include the new One World Trade Center, home to One World Observatory, with private event space for up to 300; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; and, at the South Street Seaport, the new iPic Theater. Further enhancing the neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure is the new, Santiago Calatrava–designed World Trade Center Transportation Hub, completed last year with connection to 11 subway lines, PATH trains to New Jersey, the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, Brookfield Place and the World Trade Center complex.

Many attendees will want to visit the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. Both islands can accommodate private events of up to 1,200 and are served by ferry service to and from Battery Park.

A variety of new hotels with meeting space means increased choices for planners in Lower Manhattan. The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel, opened in August and September saw the opening of the 189-room Four Seasons/New York Downtown, which is just a block from the World Trade Center. A few blocks south, the new AKA/Wall Street has 132 furnished apartments, and in Chinatown, Joie de Vivre Hotels is set to open the 229-room Hotel 50 Bowery in March with more than 11,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space.

Elsewhere in Manhattan, accommodation options continue to emerge as well. In Times Square, what was formerly a Hyatt is now the Hyatt Centric/Times Square. The Westin/New York completed a $39 million renovation last year. The Time Hotel also benefited from a multimillion-dollar remake and now offers four new meeting spaces. And Hotel Shocard has opened two suites that can be used for events.

In Midtown, the Lexington New York City completed a $50 million renovation last fall, which included the conversion of the hotel’s restaurant into an event space and foyer called the Swing Room. Just down the avenue, the Grand Hyatt/New York has introduced 12 Grand Loft Suites featuring workspaces. On Fifth Avenue, Langham Place, New York, recently renovated its 7,500-square-foot Gallery at Langham Place. And the recently renovated Park South Hotel has enhanced its offerings to include catering by James Beard Award–winning chef Tim Cushman. Additional updates include a newly completed rooftop, modernized rooms and an updated lobby and public areas.

The boroughs continue to boom, too. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just over the East River from Manhattan, the William Vale Hotel opened last year. It’s just a half-mile from the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, which offers 28,000 square feet of space. In Prospect Heights, the Barclays Center regularly hosts sports and concerts in its 19,000-seat arena, but many a group has booked its 7,700-seat Cushman & Wakefield Theater. Other venues include the Brooklyn Museum, which can host up to 880 people, and the adjacent, 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden, with an atrium for up to 130 and glass-walled Palm House for up to 275.

On the east side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park continues to expand; this year, the Pier 5 uplands is scheduled for completion, when it will offer 145,000 square feet of new parkland, including terraced lawns and a grove with a flexible seating area. Work has also begun on Pier 3, which is being converted into a central lawn and a multipurpose events area; it is expected to open in 2018. The park is also home to the restored Jane’s Carousel, which can host events of up to 150.

Many attendees fly into LaGuardia Airport in Queens. In Flushing Meadows, the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center debuted an 8,125-seat Grandstand at the U.S. Open in August. In addition, Arthur Ashe Stadium has a new retractable roof above. The center is available for customized group events.

Staten Island may be the least-populated of New York City’s five boroughs but come 2017, it will boast something quite big: the 630-foot-tall New York Wheel, the tallest observatory Ferris wheel in the nation. The project is expected to open in early 2018 in St. George, and each of its 36 pods will be able to accommodate up to 40 people for the 38-minute ride.

Long Island and the hudson valley: growing opportunities

On Long Island, the Long Island Convention & Visitor Bureau & Sports Commission has been rebranded Discover Long Island. The organization promotes Nassau and Suffolk counties for tourism, meetings and conventions, trade shows, sporting events and related activities. Highly anticipated is the reopening of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale on April 5. The arena is wrapping up a 20-month, $261 million renovation and will offer seating for up to 14,500.

In historic Port Jefferson Village, the Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa is undergoing renovations scheduled for completion early this year that include the creation of a larger ballroom space. In Westbury, the Courtyard by Marriott has opened with meeting space for groups of up to 100. And in Wading River, the 26-acre East Wind development (which includes an inn that caters to groups) recently opened the Shoppes at East End.

In New Paltz, just 90 miles north of New York City, the Mohonk Mountain House recently unveiled Grove Lodge, the landmark resort’s first new accommodations in more than 100 years. Built next to a fern grove on the northeast side of the 1,200-acre property, the lodge features six guest rooms and a 1,080-square-foot Great Room, all with custom furniture designed by local craftsmen.

The 20-acre Emerson Resort & Spa, nestled in the Catskills hamlet of Mount Tremper, completed a multimillion-dollar update last year of guest accommodations and public areas. In addition, the property features the new, 50-seat Woodnotes Grille (which offers locally sourced food and opens onto a deck) and a transformed spa.

Greater Albany: Forward Focus

Along the banks of the Hudson River in Upstate New York, the capital city of Albany appeals to groups for many reasons: its lobbying power, a number of historic and legislative sites and top-notch entertainment and shopping. This year, the city will celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal construction with special cruises and cultural tours.

In March, the 159,000-square-foot Albany Capital Center is scheduled to open downtown with space for up to 5,000 attendees. It will be connected via enclosed walkway to the recently renovated Renaissance/Albany, and next winter a walkway will open connecting it to the Empire State Plaza and the Times Union Center, the latter of which is undergoing a $19.6 million update scheduled to finish this fall.

Cultural options include the Albany Museum of Art, the Albany Institute of History & Art, the New York State Museum, the Capital Repertory Theatre and the Egg Center for the Performing Arts, all with a variety of spaces. Additionally, 90 State Events and Cornerstone at the Plaza can accommodate up to 400 and 250 people, respectively. Or for large conventions, the Washington Avenue Armory can host up to 4,300.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents holds its Winter Institute & Lobby Day in downtown Albany each year. “Albany is a great choice for us because our members park their cars once and easily walk from hotels to the conference, local restaurants, the State Education Department, and the Legislature for Lobby Day,” said Theresa Wutzer Moore, its associate director. “They can reconnect with colleagues formally at the institute and informally throughout the downtown area.”

This year’s event will be held, in large part, at the Hilton/Albany and in 2018 at the Albany Capital Center. “We look forward to the opening of the new Albany Capital Center so we can expand our Marketplace of Ideas with strategic partners and offer focused training and education in a state-of-the-art facility,” she said.

Rochester, Niagara Falls & Buffalo: Improving the Experience

On the southern shore of Lake Ontario, Rochester draws groups with its affordability, wide-ranging culinary scene, year-round festivals, shopping and attractions. Organizations that have taken advantage of the city’s offerings recently include the New York State Public Employees Federation and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.

According to the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, an estimated $857.1 million was invested in the city center in 2016, with many improvements ongoing or recently completed. The Hyatt Regency/Rochester is just one property that is undergoing a transformation. It began a multimillion-dollar renovation last fall that is expected to wrap up this summer. The Hyatt and the Radisson/Rochester Riverside are both connected via enclosed walkways to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, which offers 100,000 square feet of space.

Newer unique downtown meeting spaces include the Arbor Loft, an industrial-chic venue that can host social events, live performances, photo shoots and more. And the historic Alliance Building is undergoing renovations that will transform it into a 7,000-square-foot event space. Just across the Genesee River, the 13,000-seat Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial received $10 million in state funding last year that will go toward improvements.

Several area meeting hotels have changed names: The Rochester Plaza Hotel is now the Holiday Inn/Rochester Downtown, the Holiday Inn Express/Rochester-Brighton is now the Country Inn & Suites By Carlson/Rochester-East, and the Holiday Inn/Airport is now the Lexington Hotel Rochester Airport.

Niagara USA, an international destination that’s home to the eponymous natural landmark, also offers a bounty of historical sites, adventurous jet-boat rides, an award-winning wine trail and more than 1,000 hotel rooms. Most accommodations are found within a two-block radius of the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, which features 116,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. It is ideally located on Old Falls Street USA, an entertainment district that leads to the entrance of Niagara Falls State Park.

Just 20 miles south of Niagara Falls is Buffalo, where more than $1 billion in new investments and an emphasis on renewable energy have reinvigorated the city, which lies on the shores of Lake Erie. In 2015 alone, meetings and conventions booked in Erie County generated $147 million in economic impact.

Planners will find everything they need for their meetings at the 110,000-square-foot Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, with its recently renovated, 64,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and the adjacent Hyatt Regency/Buffalo, which has benefited from $18 million worth of improvements over the last three years and offers more than 23,000 square feet of event space. Another option is the $170 million HarborCenter, a multiuse complex that features two hockey rinks, a 13,000-square-foot, a two-story sports bar with 360 seats and a 38-foot television screen, and a Marriott Hotel with event space for up to 240 people. The nearby KeyBank Center can host upwards of 19,000 people and is within walking distance of Canalside and the Historic Cobblestone District, both full of shops and restaurants.

In September, the Westin/Buffalo opened with 116 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 220. It’s just a few blocks from the convention center and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. And the Millennium/Buffalo has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation.

One Great State

The great state of New York has it all: impressive cities, waterfront locales, natural wonders and historic meeting spaces. No matter the venue or the destination, planners can count on professionalism and a desire to please visiting groups.