Center A Welcome Door To City, State CENTER STAGE
May 9, 2005
When the Connecticut Convention Center opens on
June 2, the state will finally enter the convention and trade
show industry. It will introduce itself to a new tourism audience
- one that focuses on group travelers, not independent travelers.
It's a $45 billion domestic market that Connecticut had been
shut out of because we lacked a center capable of hosting large
meetings, trade shows and conventions.
But now the Connecticut Convention Center is the largest meeting
and exhibition place between New York and Boston.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of group members and corporate
executives drive through or fly over our state on their way to
events in Boston, New York and Providence. They are spending
their convention dollars in other Northeast cities - on hotel
rooms, car rentals, restaurant meals, taxi service, entertainment.
That makes a huge economic impact on a destination. For more
than 20 years, Connecticut has been unable to take a competitive
seat at this lucrative table.
The Connecticut Convention Center's size (540,000 square feet)
and flexibility are its most important contributions to the state's
economy. The sheer volume of meeting and exhibition space at
the convention center is what allows Connecticut to compete with
other cities and regions for these group travelers.
A first for Connecticut, the center offers 140,000 square feet
of exhibition space - enough room for 800 trade show booths -
as well as a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 25,000 square feet
of meeting space, stunning skyline and riverfront views, dramatic
public gathering places and an attached 409-room headquarters
hotel, the new Marriott Hartford Downtown, to open later this
Estimated to draw more than 250,000 people to Connecticut in
its first year, the convention center is slated to host nearly
Studies show that convention attendees stay an average of three
days in their host city and spend an average of $260 a day. The
spinoff from that kind of economic activity affects the entire
state: Attendees will not limit their time here to Hartford alone.
After discovering Hartford's rich history, culture, recreation
and dining options, visitors will likely take day trips to other
parts of Connecticut.
Longtime residents may not appreciate how rich our area is with
interesting things to do, but the convention and meeting planners
who have already selected Hartford have pointed to these treasures
as part of the reason they selected our destination.
Connecticut can boast genuine heritage, world-class museums,
arts and culture, craft centers, aquariums, championship golf
courses, two of the largest casinos in the world, shoreline recreation,
University of Connecticut sports, the Mark Twain and Harriet
Beecher Stowe houses, the Amistad, Mystic Seaport, Yale University
- the list just keeps going on and on.
Add the diversity of Greater Hartford's restaurant scene, and
many new and upgraded lodgings, and you can understand our city
has a lot to offer this marketplace.
From outside Connecticut, Hartford is viewed as a great northeastern
alternative to New York and Boston - more cost-effective, easy
to get to and within a two-hour drive of 23 million people. For
those national or regional associations that depend on annual
meetings for much of their funding, Hartford's offerings can
practically guarantee strong attendance - and that can be key
in the conference selection.
Connecticut companies and organizations that have been forced
to hold their meetings out of state because of the lack of convention
space can now take advantage of an in-state location. The center's
very first trade show, the Connecticut Xpo for Business, is now
the second-largest business-to-business event in New England.
As people from out of state come here and discover Hartford,
we may also see a new image of ourselves.
Ben Seidel is executive director of the Connecticut Convention
Center. He will speak Tuesday at the MetroHartford Alliance's
Rising Star Breakfast at the Hilton Hartford Hotel. For more
information, call 728-2261.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at