It’s Game Time for the New York City Metro Area


(by Andrea Doyle, Successful Meetings, February 25, 2013)

The spotlight is about to shine brighter than ever on the New York metropolitan area as it prepares to host Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014. The stakes are high as this is the first time the game is being held in the Northeast, in an open-air stadium, in a cold-weather city.
This Super Bowl will also be like no other as it going to be a trans-Hudson celebration. The game is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ but the events surrounding the game will be split between both New Jersey and New York. A “Super Bowl Boulevard” will transform a portion of Broadway in midtown Manhattan into a massive fan event. It will begin on 44th Street, in the middle of Times Square, and stretch down Broadway to 34th Street from January 29 to February 1.
“For the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl, we’ve embraced the opportunity to create plans that are as big, bold, and unique as New York City and the surrounding region itself,” says National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. “While we can only fit 80,000 fans into MetLife Stadium for the game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, we look forward to hosting hundreds of thousands of people at different attractions and events during Super Bowl Week, throughout all parts of the area.” All the facets that make the New York area so special will be highlighted including culture, shopping, museums, restaurants, and theater. Plus, hotels have been renovated, roads widened, and airports upgraded in anticipation of America’s biggest sports tournament.
Karen Shackman of New York City destination management company, Shackman Associates, says they have already started receiving requests from international clients about the Super Bowl. This is a break in the trend Shackman has been experiencing — short-term bookings. “People have been deciding in a matter of weeks to come to New York for a meeting or incentive and they want all the bells and whistles,” Shackman says.
This does not hold true for a special event like the Super Bowl, especially since many hotels have already posted the No Vacancy sign. The NFL alone has booked 16,000 hotel rooms for players, coaches, and owners. The game will not only attract fans but corporate groups who want to entertain clients, and host incentives and meetings.
Another trend Shackman has observed is that many meetings and incentives are seeking to move from “experiential” to “transformational.”
“They want to transform their way of thinking, of doing things, of seeing things,” says Shackman. “For example, they want to visit the corporate headquarters of a company that is related to their industry and learn from the experts.”
A recent architectural client asked Shackman to find them an interesting reincarnated hotel. The Refinery Hotel fits the bill perfectly, says Shackman. Originally built as a high-end millinery factory and tea salon in 1913, Refinery’s design draws on the building’s past. This 197-room hotel that is set to open in May has loft-like guest rooms with an industrial-chic design, 12-foot-high ceilings, and an upscale rooftop public space with views of the Empire State Building.
More Popular Than Ever 
New York City’s popularity continues to break records as the city welcomed a record 52 million visitors in 2012, a new all-time high and a 2.1 percent increase over 2011, according to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta.
“Our meetings and conventions segment also continues to perform well. In 2012, we had the most spending by our meetings and convention delegates ever,” says Fertitta.
He points out that 5.2 million delegates visited New York City in 2012, up 2 percent from last year, and total spending was nearly $5 billion dollars, again up 2 percent from 2011, all in a tough economy.
With the continued increase in visitation, New York City’s hotel room inventory continues to expand — with 93,000 rooms in the city now. Even with the addition of new rooms, the city’s hotel occupancy remains strong at 87 percent, the highest in the nation. By the end of 2014, it is anticipated the city will have 100,000 hotel rooms.
Amongst New York City hotels that have finished renovations is the 1,781-room Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel that unveiled newly renovated meeting spaces on March 1. The hotel has undergone a $180-million renovation, of which $20 million transformed the hotel’s 60,000 square feet of meeting spaces.
“Our redesigned meeting spaces will offer meeting planners the newest and most modern facilities in the Times Square area, along with a 100-percent renovated hotel product,” says Kai Fischer, director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton New York Times Square.
Facilities include 43 meeting rooms, an executive conference center, the 13,768-square-foot Metropolitan Ballroom that can accommodate up to 2,500 guests, and the 8,715-square-foot New York Ballroom, which holds 1,200.
Another hotel undergoing a massive renovation is The New York Palace. It recently completed the first phase of its $100 million renovation, transforming the property’s event spaces. The redesigned meeting rooms, situated on the hotel’s fourth and fifth floors, include over 10,500 square feet of space. The new atmosphere not only reflects the Neo-Italian Renaissance style of the property’s original architecture, but also matches the style and grandeur of the existing function rooms located on the upper floors of the hotel’s Villard Mansion. The New York Palace has 805 rooms and 88 suites and is located at the intersection of 50th Street and Madison Avenue, across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The Tuscany, one of two side-by-side hotels in Murray Hill owned and operated by St Giles Hotel Group, recently reopened following a full renovation.
Originally an apartment building, The Tuscany opened in 1928 and was the first hotel in the city to have telephones in every bathroom and the first in the world to introduce color televisions. Today, there are 124 studios and lofts. Its sister hotel, The Court, features 199 guest rooms and suites. The meeting space for the two hotels is in The Court. There are seven state-of-the-art meetings rooms and event spaces. In addition, The Tuscany NYC is unveiling its 17th Floor Penthouse Suite, which will be available for events and meetings in May.
Affinia Manhattan recently underwent a $24-million renovation of all its 618 guestrooms and suites and its meeting space. There is over 10,000 square feet of flexible event space in the Affinia that can accommodate groups of 12 to 325. Affinia’s public space is scheduled to be completed this year.
The Westin New York Grand Central opened in October 2012, taking over the former New York Helmsley Hotel after a $75-million renovation. The hotel’s interior has been completely redesigned, including 774 spacious guest rooms equipped with Westin’s signature amenities, more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space with the latest technology, a 3,000-square-foot WestinWORKOUT fitness studio, and THE LCL: Bar & Kitchen, NYC. Opening in April is the Westin New York Grand Central’s Madison Ballroom with 2,500 square feet of space that can accommodate up to 350 guests.
Last year, Conrad New York opened its doors in the city’s vibrant Battery Park City neighborhood. Rising 16 stories along the Hudson River waterfront, the 463-suite luxury hotel is the first New York address from Conrad Hotels & Resorts, the global luxury brand of Hilton Worldwide. The Conrad New York has more than 30,000 square feet of flexible space. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events is the exclusive food and beverage partner for the hotel’s onsite conference and event facilities.
Deemed Grand Dame of Madison Avenue since 1924, The Roosevelt Hotel New York City completed an entire renovation of all its 1,015 guestrooms and suites and Madison Club Lounge last year. In April, The Roosevelt Hotel’s rooftop lounge, mad46, atop the 19th floor, reopens.
At the end of 2011, the last phase of the 1,306-room Grand Hyatt New York’s $130 million complete transformation was unveiled. Adjacent to Grand Central Station, all of the Grand Hyatt New York’s 1,306 guest rooms, including 51 suites, were renovated. The hotel offers 55,000 square feet of event space ranging from intimate boardrooms to expansive ballrooms.
New York’s Union Square is becoming a new hotel hotspot. The art-deco-style 113-room Jade Hotel is opening this month on West 13th Street and two blocks away, the 178-room Hyatt Union Square is scheduled to open in April. In the same area, the W New York-Union Square is undergoing a $15-million renovation, the first one since it opened in 2001.
New York’s hotel development continues outside the borough of Manhattan as well, with new properties in Long Island City, Queens, Downtown Brooklyn, and Williamsburg.
Javits Rolls Out Green Carpet
Hotels do not have New York City’s renovation market cornered. Madison Square Garden has undergone a comprehensive, top-to-bottom transformation. Of particular interest to corporate groups is the new Lexus Madison Suite Level that features 58 new Madison Level Suites along with the new Madison Club presented by Foxwoods (both located as close as 23 rows away from the action), as well as the new Event Level Suites, Delta Sky360 Club and 1879 Club.
The Javits Center is in the midst of an ambitious expansion/renovation project. A new hall known as Javits Center North was completed in 2010 and renovation to the main building is underway. The center is also going green. A 292,000-square-foot green roof is being installed that will be the second largest green roof on a single, freestanding building in the United States.
Brooklyn has a new $1-billion arena that opened last September: Barclays Center, a major sports and entertainment venue in the heart of Brooklyn. This 675,000-square-foot arena is home to the Brooklyn Nets and is hosting an extensive variety of events, including premier concerts, monthly professional boxing cards, top college basketball games, family shows, and soon the New York Islanders hockey team. Located atop one of the largest transportation hubs in New York City, Barclays Center is accessible by 11 subway lines, the Long Island Rail Road, and 11 bus lines.
City Cycling
New York is becoming ever more bike-friendly and an increasing number of corporate groups are taking advantage of this. “New York had a stigma attached to it that you couldn’t ride a bike here, but that’s not the case. There is the West Side Bike path, Central Park, and Highbridge Park,” explains Chris Wogas, president of Bike and Roll NYC. “Groups can ride bikes in Manhattan without actually interacting with cars which was the biggest deterrent in the past.”
Bike and Roll has more than 2,000 bikes available for individual rentals or guided tours.
A group of architects were in town last summer and wanted a bike tour that focused on the architecture of New York City and that’s what Bike and Roll organized for them. “When working with groups we have found the tour ends on a much higher note than when it starts. The group bonds along the way and at the many stops we plan,” says Wogas. Bike and Roll has planned stops for lunch, to visit a museum, to explain a point of interest, and more.
Another unique way to get your group outdoors is sailing aboard a tall ship with Manhattan by Sail. The Shearwateris an 80-year-old classic schooner that accommodates 48 passengers and is New York City’s only floating designated landmark. The Clipper City is a 158-foot topsail schooner with masts and rigging reaching up 120 feet from the deck that can accommodate up to 150 passengers.
World Yacht has four yachts — Princess, Duchess, Destiny, and Rendezvous — that are available for charters and private events. Operating since 1981, World Yacht is at Pier 81 on the Hudson River.
Another group-friendly New York offering is the New York Pass, a smart card that allows cash-free entry to more than 70 New York tourist attractions along with discounts at select retailers, restaurants, and Broadway shows. The pass also includes VIP access and fast track privileges for select locations.  Every New York Pass comes with a free 176-page guidebook that includes detailed maps, hours of operation, tips and directions to every New York Pass attraction. The guidebooks make for popular turndown gifts for those attendees who are planning to spend a few days in New York City after the meeting is over. The New York Pass is also ideal for spouse programs.
Did You Know?
Grand Central Terminal, which stands as one of America’s greatest transportation hubs and one of New York City’s most iconic buildings, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Upward of 750,000 people pass through Grand Central a day. What many do not realize is that Grand Central Terminal can accommodate all types of events.
It was in 1869 that shipping magnate “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt purchased property between 42nd and 48th streets, Lexington and Madison Avenue for construction of a new train depot and rail yard. It was on this site that would rise the first Grand Central.
Carolines is No Joke for Meetings
Carolines on Broadway, in the heart of Times Square, is widely regarded as America’s premier comedy nightclub. Live comedy entertainment is featured here seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Carolines first opened as a cabaret in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood in 1981. Owner Caroline Hirsch, a lifelong comedy fan, soon began booking comedians. The comedy acts, which included now-legendary performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jay Leno, were a tremendous success, and Carolines soon became a full-fledged comedy nightclub.
When Hirsch relocated the club to its grand setting in Times Square in 1992, the club began presenting comedians in a sophisticated nightclub setting with 300 seats and a 100-seat bar. The biggest names in comedy perform here in the evening.
During the day, it is the ideal venue for all types of meetings. “Daytime is our off-time so we are able to price it right,” says Hirsch. Some groups will use the 10,000 square feet of space for just meetings and others will combine serious business with comedy. “A plus is we are self-contained. We serve food, cocktails, have all the digital and electronic equipment a meeting needs and the space is fun, it has a personality,” says Hirsch.
Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, is one of Carolines meeting clients. A recent end-of-the-year meeting consisted of a large presentation for 125 guests that utilized the club’s digital projector and sound system for PowerPoint and video presentations. After the meeting, Carolines created a customized comedy show for the group followed by a private cocktail reception
Planner in Residence
Barbara Ann Mischuk, independent meeting professional specializing in on-site meeting management in the Greater New York City Area
What’s your favorite thing about living in New York City?
One does not need a car to live, work, and enjoy New York City.
Where do you take your friends from out of town when they visit to show them a good time?
Going to museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History are fun.  Walking through Central Park and around the reservoir is wonderful. Happy hours are always happening and getting half-price tickets for a play on or off Broadway is a memorable experience. I enjoy going to tourist attractions with friends, since I rarely take advantage, unless I am invited to a special event. Also, taking a tour and staying on the bus would be fun for an out-of-towner.
What’s your favorite venue in the city for holding an event?
Most recently, I have been facilitating meetings at restaurants in the Greater New York Area. Those that are equipped with Wi-Fi, plasma screens, projectors, and particularly satellite capability, enable medical dinner meetings to be broadcast nationwide in a cost effective manner. Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris offer this technology. I’m not choosing favorites, though — when a venue offers added value, it makes the planner’s job more seamless.
What’s the best thing about holding a meeting in New York?
There is so much for an attendee to do before or after the meeting on their own. NYC & Company is a great resource for information on tourist attractions and discounts. (The website for planners is