Newly Renovated Monterey Conference Center Now Open for Meetings

February 23, 2018

Located in the heart of the historic city of Monterey, the new $60 million Monterey Conference Center is open for business after two years of renovations. The official ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Jan. 31, followed by a celebration that included live music, hors-d'oeuvres and guided tours of the property.

The Conference Center is a modern, LEED-certified meeting facility that features more than 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and can fit groups of up to 3,200 attendees.

The exterior of the building presents a striking first impression with natural stone, a large oval skylight and a sculptural fountain. Prior to the renovations, many people assumed the Conference Center and the Portola Hotel & Spa were the same property. The new façade helps differentiate the two venues.

“We wanted the Conference Center to stand alone, have its own identity and be a draw for groups and attendees,” explained Nancy Whitman, director of sales and events for the city of Monterey.

Inside, the Conference Center is clean and well laid-out. There is a large pre-function foyer right inside the front doors and in front of the 19,150 sq. ft. Serra Ballroom, with plenty of space for registration counters.

All new fiber optic cables were laid throughout the property, and there are plenty of electrical outlets and internet connection points both inside the meeting rooms and in the common areas, and even individual thermostats for each room.

On the second floor, the 10,000 sq. ft. Steinbeck ballroom features an 18-foot ceiling made up of wooden panels that mimic the feel of being on a boat. The space can be divided into five sections, with convenient hanging points in each area. There are large loading docks for easy move-in and move-out, offering the ability to bring cars in on both floors of the venue (particularly important for events such as the annual Monterey Car Week).

Sustainability is important at the Conference Center. Digital display screens appear outside of each room to encourage planners to minimize the printing of signage. There are water bottle refill stations to cut down on the use of plastic bottled water, and the facility uses recycled and compostable materials whenever and wherever possible. The building will also soon be adding solar panels for energy conservation.

The facility is directly connected to the newly renovated Portola Hotel & Spa and connected to the Monterey Marriott’s meeting space via a skybridge.

The Portola Hotel & Spa offers meeting space for up to 1,700 attendees and 379 guest rooms. Its DeAnza ballroom is also directly accessible through the Conference Center, offering seamless integration for larger meetings. The Monterey Marriott has 341 guest rooms and can hold meetings for up to 1,590 attendees.

The location offers features and attractions that are ideal for both meeting attendees and tourists alike: walking distance to the waterfront that includes the Old Fisherman’s Wharf and a large selection of restaurants and shops. There are a number of other hotel options nearby, from the boutique Hotel Pacific to the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa. For attendees who are driving, there is also a conveniently located parking garage just steps away, directly across Portola Plaza.

“We see the facility as a regional hub of innovation that will capitalize on our destination’s natural allure and, together, help drive new thinking for group attendees,” said Tammy Blount, president and CEO of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCCVB).

In an effort to make it easy for event planners to find the right space to suit their needs, the CVB has created the Monterey Conference Connection, which brings together the Monterey Conference Center, Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Marriott, enabling planners to look at all the space and sleeping rooms together, submit a single RFP and work with a single group sales contact.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.