As communications director, I spend most of my time interpreting and promoting the many experiences available in our part of the Adirondacks for the leisure travel market. However, our organization is responsible for sales of the community’s new Conference Center, so I’ve been cramming to learn more about the meetings and groups market over the last year, and now have a great appreciation for the planning that went into the tremendous asset we have in the new Center.
When I first approached our sales staff with questions, I didn’t know there was an important difference between a “conference” and a “convention.” And I’m sure I’m not alone; to most people outside the meetings and groups industry, the words probably seem interchangeable.
To the community of Lake Placid, however, the distinction will translate into increased business.
Here’s the difference: a convention center typically evokes an image of a large hall that will hold a grand scale trade show or car show. The Conference Center at Lake Placid is named specifically to reflect and promote a different product. Our new Conference Center is a facility that offers flexible meeting space (the walls move), comfortable seating, soundproof walls and all of the audio visual technological equipment and connections necessary to conduct a contemporary business meeting, which opens up a whole new market for our destination.
Lake Placid now offers the best of both worlds, though, as we can still accommodate groups who are looking for a traditional convention center. The Herb Brooks 1980 Arena and the Jack Shea 1932 Arena are connected to the Conference Center, and each offers 20,000 square feet of space for a variety of large scale trade shows, food and beverage functions, and events.
In all, the new Conference Center will offer more than 90,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibition space, with a total of 12 breakout rooms available for concurrent sessions, a ballroom and a full service production kitchen.
It was designed with the community’s room stock and amenities, its location in the Adirondacks and contemporary meeting market needs in mind. Among its many great design features, the Center offers a balance of eco-technology to keep the cold out, while letting the spectacular views of the Adirondacks in.
The long-awaited Conference Center at Lake Placid will welcome its first group in May, and while Bob Hammond and his team at ORDA have done a tremendous job managing the construction, the Lake Placid CVB/ORDA sales team has been selling the space they’re building to potential groups, often years in advance. The sales team coordinates hotel bids and proposals, assists groups and attendees in inventing custom programs for meetings and activities, develops comprehensive itineraries and spousal programs and offers centralized accounting and an online reservations system.
As we engineer the future of the destination, the Conference Center is one of the important ingredients in our efforts to achieve an eleven-month economy. The new facility allows us to increasingly capitalize on our ability to host events during mid-week day patterns and shoulder seasons, outside of the traditional travel periods.
And we’re starting off in the black: the facility is paid for with funds set aside through ORDA by Governor Pataki before he left office, so the community will have the newest, most state-of-the-art facility, with absolutely no debt load.
And I’ll have a front row seat for all of it. The main level of the conference center will feature the Lake Placid Visitor Center, and include the CVB offices. During the Conference Center construction, our visitor center was temporarily moved to the Village beach house, and our walk-in traffic has slowed slightly due to decreased visibility. The new visitors center will serve as a convenient resource for conference attendees and their guests, and the central location will allow us to better promote the region’s experiences to leisure travelers.
So let’s all embrace the name, and repeat after me: CONFERENCE Center at Lake Placid. The difference gives us a competitive edge!
For more information about the Conference Center, visit www.meetingslakeplacid.com, and for ongoing sales effort updates and the current conference schedule, visit the CVB’s local marketing partner resource, www.lakeplacidcvb.com.
Kim Rielly is director of communications for regional office of sustainable tourism, the accredited destination marketing org (DMO) for LP and Essex County.