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Greater Seattle Gleams With Transformative Meetings Developments
Metro Seattle, a region always at the forefront of technology and travel trends, is transforming its iconic landmarks while making room for exciting new meeting venues and visitor attractions.
This reinvention is bringing alternative ways for groups to experience old favorites as well as putting new choices into the mix.
Seattle on the Move
In downtown Seattle, the biggest game-changer for meetings is certain to be the Summit Building, which will be part of the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) when it opens in spring 2022.
Ground broke in August on the free-standing structure that will be a block and a half away from the current facility, now known as the Arch Building. It will include 255,000 square feet of exhibition space on two levels, 120,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a 60,000-square foot grand ballroom.
“Both buildings are named for their distinctive architectural features,” said Kelly Saling, vice president of sales and services for Visit Seattle.
These features include the Arch’s glass skybridge and arched atrium spanning Pike Street and the Summit’s dramatic staircase running alongside the building’s steel and glass exterior.
“Since we started selling in August, we’ve confirmed 11 groups into the Summit,” Saling said. “We’ve had a lot of demand that we couldn’t meet over the years. The Arch is not large enough for a variety of shows.”
While state, regional and national associations will remain a mainstay, the new capacity will allow WSCC greater ability to accommodate corporate business, especially from the local tech sector, according to Saling. Also helping in this regard is the 1,260-room Hyatt Regency Seattle, the city’s largest hotel.
The property opened in December 2018 near the Summit site with over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, including two 20,000 square-foot ballrooms.
“We work so much with associations that we’re often filled up,” Saling said. “With the Hyatt and Summit, we can capture more of our locally-based tech business, so they won’t have to look for options outside of Seattle.”
The new Hyatt is part of a surge of new hotel activity in Seattle, which brought a 20 percent increase in room supply last year. These include the 229-room Charter Hotel Seattle, Curio Collection by Hilton, which opened downtown with a rooftop lounge and 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
Other new properties are the 146-room Moxy Hotel, located near the Amazon headquarters in the South Lake Union neighborhood, and the 282-room Embassy Suites Seattle Downtown-Pioneer Square, located near Century Link Field with meeting space for up to 600 people.
Another new enhancement for downtown is MarketFront, a 30,000-square-foot public plaza that is the first addition to the iconic Pike Place Market in over 40 years.
With panoramic views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, the plaza offers stall areas for artists, farmers and purveyors, as well as space for special events.
“We now have expanded space for events at Pike Place Market, including at restaurants like Pike Place Brewery,” Saling said. “We’ve done events for up to 1,200 people.”
An even more dramatic change for Seattle’s waterfront area that will enhance the meeting experience is the scheduled demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct elevated freeway later this year. The result will be unobstructed waterfront views and access as well as new pedestrian-friendly green spaces, Saling said.
Transformations are also taking place at Seattle Center, site of many of the city’s most popular attractions, including the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass, Museum of Pop Culture and Pacific Science Center. A new feature of the complex will be the Seattle Arena, a makeover of the existing KeyArena, which will be home to an NHL expansion hockey team in 2020.
“The upgrades will make Seattle Arena a great option for general sessions, with good access from downtown via the Monorail,” Saling said.
Newly emerged from a $100 million “spacelift,” the Space Needle features dramatic new glass features providing seamless panoramic views of the Pacific Northwest. These include the world’s first revolving glass floor, known as The Loupe, showcasing a downward view of Seattle from 500 feet in the air.
“I recently attended a dinner held at The Loupe where the event planners brought in clear glass furniture, so no view was unobstructed,” Saling said. “It’s an amazing experience.”
Tacoma is also in a state of transformation, with a convention hotel on tap for 2020 as well as enhancements to its waterfront, which includes an array of museums and recreational areas with group-friendly spaces.
Construction is underway on a 303-room Marriott-branded hotel that will be connected to the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. The hotel will offer a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and an additional 9,000 square feet of breakout space.
“The new hotel will help us with larger conferences, giving us more guest rooms as well as more breakout space and flexibility,” said Chelene Potvin-Bird, vice president of sales and servicing for Travel Tacoma. “There were concerns that construction might have an impact on meetings at the convention center now, but that hasn’t happened at all.”
Potvin-Bird is also enthused about the anticipated April opening of McMenamins Elks Temple, a conversion of a century-old, Beaux-Arts-style Elks Lodge. Operated by McMenamins Inc., an Oregon-based developer specializing in historic restorations, the property will be transformed into a 44-room boutique hotel. It will include multiple live music venues, restaurants, bars and event spaces.
Tacoma’s waterfront is also a focal point for new developments, including the Silver Cloud Hotel at Point Ruston. The Silver Cloud Hotel is set to open next year with 189 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting event space that includes a rooftop pool deck.
The new property will be near the 700-acre Point Defiance Park, where the Pacific Seas Aquarium opened at Point Defiance Zoo last summer. Designed by the same architectural team behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it features exhibits devoted to marine life from Baja California to Alaska.
Groups of up to 400 can rent the aquarium during the evening.
“Point Defiance Park is a major asset for us, one where [meeting attendees] can experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest without leaving the city,” Potvin-Bird said. “You can see Puget Sound with its orcas and seals and be surrounded by mountains on two sides. This summer a new waterfront trail will be completed that connects the park with downtown.”
Other assets for Tacoma include a burgeoning restaurant and craft brewery scene, she added.
“Attendees really enjoy doing a Craft Crawl, where they can visit different breweries and distilleries, including seven that are located along our light rail line that stops at the convention center,” she said.
Bellevue, located just west of Seattle on Lake Washington, draws substantial meeting business from nearby tech companies such as Microsoft, according to Jane Kantor, director of sales for Visit Bellevue.
While corporate business keeps space at a premium 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.
The city is drawing new hotel growth, including the W Hotel Bellevue, which debuted in 2017 with 242 guest rooms and 10,000-square feet of meeting space.
Another new addition is the 254-room Hilton Garden Inn Seattle Bellevue Downtown, which opened last May with meeting space for up to 150 people.
Construction is slated to start this summer on the Avenue Bellevue InterContinental Hotel, a 252-room hotel located in a mixed-use downtown complex with condos, restaurants and retail shops.
The hotel will be managed by Benchmark Hospitality.
North of Seattle, Snohomish County is home to a range of venues, including the Lynwood Convention Center and Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in Everett. The area’s major meetings property is the Tulalip Resort, Casino & Spa, which offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
With so much going on throughout the Seattle region, meeting planners will find plenty of innovative choices to consider.
Greater Seattle CVB Contact Information
Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority
Snohomish County Tourism Bureau
Visit Bellevue Washington