Atlantic City’s Non-Gaming Shift Geared Towards Groups

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Borgata Festival Park
Borgata Festival Park

Atlantic City experienced a significant shift in the past decade that has transformed it from a typical gaming destination to one that includes attractions and new hotel offerings for everyone from families to meeting attendees. Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City’s Waterfront Conference Center, Borgata Festival Park, The Playground and the Steel Pier Ferris Wheel are just a few of the new offerings that meeting planners can incorporate into their next event.

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City will debut the $125.8 million Waterfront Conference Center in August, adding 125,000 sf of meeting space to the property’s convention offerings. The addition will make Harrah’s the largest hotel-conference center complex from Baltimore to Boston, making it an ideal stomping ground for up to 5,000 attendees to meet along the mid-Atlantic Seaboard.

“Conventions these days want to meet and sleep under the same roof,” says James Wood, president and CEO for Meet AC. “The city expects to get a lot more business from those connecting areas as a result [of this conference center].”

Located in the city’s Marina District, Harrah’s Atlantic City offers a prime setting for groups to conduct business while enjoying nearby restaurants or attractions such as the Atlantic City Aquarium. The property even works with local DMCs to organize teambuilding activities, including boat cruises, helicopter tours and scavenger hunts along the city’s boardwalk.

“The conference center really highlights the shift of what Atlantic City is going through, adding attractions and products that bring in non-gaming revenue,” says Wood. “To build this center means [the hotel] is very serious about going after the convention market. They’re not going after the gamer; they’re going after the delegate.”

Resorts Casino Hotel has a similar objective after debuting a 12,000-sf conference space addition in June. This followed the property’s $35 million Margaritaville addition and nearly $70 million property-wide expansion and renovation. “This conference center expansion is the latest example of the company’s reinvestment in the property and Atlantic City as a whole as we continue to strategize ways to revive and turnaround this market,” says Morris Bailey, owner of Resorts.

By the end of the year, the city will also open a Ferris wheel at Steel Pier. While other observation wheels across the nation offer event space at the bottom of their wheels — Maryland’s Capital Wheel, for instance — Wood says it’s still too early to tell whether or not the wheel will provide meeting space. It will, however, add a new vantage for meeting attendees looking to experience the city from above.

Music fans will appreciate the opening of The Playground. In April, Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein announced a $52 million reinvention of the former Pier Shops at Caesars to include a 500,000-sf entertainment attraction that will feature six music-themed clubs and a beachfront concert venue. While that project is still in the development phase, attendees can attend an outdoor concert at Borgota Festival Park, which debuted in time for this summer’s music season at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Acts this summer include Willie Nelson, Counting Crows, Meghan Trainor and Rick Springfield.

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