Convention bookings at the
new Connecticut Convention Center will fill 121,000 hotel room-nights
and generate $21.9 million in economic impact from hotel stays
during its first year of operation, the executive director
of the new center said Tuesday at this month's Rising Star
When the $271 million state-owned
convention center officially opens June 2, it will be Hartford's
first new major public building in a generation. Ben Seidel,
the center's executive director, said the project's completion
represents not just "bricks
and mortar," but an economic catalyst that will allow Metro
Hartford to directly compete with cities such as Pittsburgh,
Baltimore and Milwaukee for group tourism business.
"It's the reason that thousands of convention delegates
are coming next year," Seidel said.
But Seidel said the new building can help the region overcome
another opponent - its image of itself.
"For those of us who live here, we can be pretty hard on
ourselves," Seidel said. Outside Connecticut, he said the
new convention center - coupled with the arts, heritage, recreational
and location advantages of central Connecticut - is elevating
Hartford to the status "a new player" in the competition
Those attributes allowed Hartford to make the short list to
host the 2010 meeting of the American Legion, despite the fact
that the region has fewer hotel rooms in close proximity to the
convention site than the Legion typically wants to see, he said.
Hartford lost out to Milwaukee, but has been invited back to
compete for the 2011 meeting.
"I look at that as a success story," Seidel said. "We
built something that is taking national notice."
The goal of the convention center, which can host meetings ranging
from a dozen people to at least 17,000, is to spread as much
spending into the local economy as possible. Seidel said that
many of the people working on any particular convention, from
florists to photographers, won't be convention center employees.
"We sell space," he said. "Virtually
all of these other services are doled out to local business
and work forces, whenever possible."
The total economic impact of the convention center, factoring
in trade shows and the host of local events that will use the
building, is estimated at about $58 million. The convention center
has yet to book the number of large conventions - the large multiple-day
meetings that attract visitors from across the country, fill
hotel rooms and produce the largest economic impact - predicted
by consultants who recommended the state build the center.
But the center has been able to fill in with other events, such
as banquets and local consumer shows, and the total of 200 events
and 250,000 total visitors expected to use the convention center
during its first year are ahead of projections, Seidel said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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