At any given time, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center may have as many as five large events occurring simultaneously, thanks not only to its size, but to creative investments in lighting, furniture and sound that have transformed many of its previously underutilized spaces into contemporary event venues.
Convention center management and the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) are expanding upon the success of these venues, such as the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Arena and adjacent Pacific Gallery and Patio, to breathe life into even more of the convention center’s spaces and expand upon its events potential.
Creating turnkey event spaces is key focus for Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center General Manager Charlie Beirne, left, and Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Goodling. The two are leading efforts to incorporate theatrical lighting and sound systems into spaces at the convention center such as the Terrace Theater lobby and plaza, and the entrance to the Seaside Ballroom. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
The overall vision is to create a venue in which every key space is decked out with assets that convention and meeting clients would normally have to pay extra for – features like theatrical lighting, sound and décor – thereby making it more economical, attractive, and, as the CVB’s President and CEO Steve Goodling put it, just plain cool.
“Unlike any other facility in the country, we’re looking at making all spaces available to our clients,” convention center General Manager Charlie Beirne said during an interview with Goodling and the Business Journal at his office.
“By activating spaces, we want them to be turnkey,” Goodling said. “If you would throw your own party, you’d easily spend $100,000 with lighting and trusses and everything else. Now, all you have to do is tell us, ‘Turn it on,’ and it’s done.”
The CVB and convention center management are working together to activate more spaces within the convention center, including the Terrace Theater lobby and plaza.
“What we have done in the Terrace Theater is, in the lobby we have put in five trusses, which are on motors, [and] which we will be able to bring up and down from the ceiling,” Beirne said. Railings on the staircase in the lobby are now detachable so they can be removed, effectively creating a tiered stage for special events. Sound systems and contemporary chandeliers are also being installed. Combined, these features make the space turnkey-ready for special events such as speaking events, dinners, galas, pageants, receptions and more.
The exterior of the Terrace Theater is also going to be treated with theatrical lighting trusses underneath the lip of its roofline, Goodling said. “Then we are going to be lighting up the rest of the plaza as well,” he added. “Our goal is to create a Rockefeller Plaza-type experience, with bright lights and a lot of things happening.”
Beirne said the upgrades would facilitate events flowing indoors from the lobby outside onto the plaza. He noted that the convention center has obtained an ABC license to serve alcoholic beverages on the plaza, so private events with bars can be set up outside.
National associations, which are often based in colder climates, particularly like this concept as it affords an opportunity to take advantage of temperate California weather with added ambiance, Goodling pointed out.
Beneath the Terrace Theater plaza is a portion of Seaside Way, fronted on one side by a parking structure and, on the other, by the entrance to the convention center’s Seaside Ballroom. Capped by the underbelly of the plaza, the space is known for being a bit dim and bare. But not for much longer.
Plans to update the entrance to the Seaside Ballroom on Seaside Way include installing current-shaped railings for theatrical lighting, contemporary light fixtures and other design features beneath the Terrace Theater plaza. The design allows for the section of Seaside Way fronting the ballroom to be closed off for special events. (Image provided by the Long Beach CVB)
The addition of a pedestrian bridge, a project by the City of Long Beach, will eventually connect the Terrace plaza to the Promenade. Renderings in Beirne’s office reveal how the entrance to the Seaside Ballroom will be transformed with the bridge running above it.
The tops of the bridge’s support pillars will be decked out with porous design features encapsulating LED lights. The resulting patterned light effect will resemble professional stage lighting, Goodling explained. More lighting will hang from metal railings sculpted in the shape of currents, and images of jellyfish and sea urchins will add to an aquatic ambiance in the space. Additionally, new, contemporary chandeliers will “create an avant-garde look” at the entryway to the ballroom, Goodling said.
“The nice thing is that we’re going to have it lit all year round,” Goodling said of the Seaside Way improvements. He noted that this also improves the visual appeal and safety of the area.
The revamped space beneath the plaza on Seaside Way may be blocked off for parties or events. Beirne envisions corporate events and convention or trade show receptions taking place in the revamped space. Goodling chimed in that the space might open up new markets that haven’t used the convention center before.
The improvements to the Terrace Theater lobby and plaza, and to the entryway to the Seaside Ballroom, cost about $1 million in total. These projects follow on the heels of the proven success of the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Arena, which two years ago debuted with a theatrical, lattice grid truss system for lighting, curtains and decorative orbs that has created built-in flexibility and cost savings for events clients.
The Terrace Theater’s lobby and plaza are in the process of being outfitted with theatrical lighting trusses, LED lights and sound systems to make the spaces turnkey-ready for events. The concept, according to convention center management, is to showcase the theater and plaza, which front Ocean Boulevard, in a similar way to Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
“It’s a proven commodity now,” Beirne said of the Pacific Room. Since opening in November 2013, the Pacific Room has generated $104.1 million in economic impact associated with its events, as well as $40 million more in tentative business. The Pacific Room has more than paid for itself – convention center renovations, including those to the Long Beach Arena, cost $40 million.