The Albany Capital Center
New York State’s premier meeting and event destination
An impressive event line up takes center stage at Albany Capital Center
It is no secret that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit sectors of the U.S. economy, with nearly eight million jobs lost on top of billions of dollars in unrealized revenue.
Merely surviving in such an environment was a formidable challenge for the hotels, restaurants, travel and leisure companies, convention centers, venues and more that were forced to re-imagine, reorganize, re-tool, and reboot if they were to remain afloat.
One institution that is making its way back to prominence and profitability is the Albany Capital Center (ACC), a modern, premier event and meeting destination located in New York State’s Capital Region.
Serving the capital region
Operated by ASM Global, the world’s leading venue management and services company, the ACC is a multi-purpose meeting and event facility that can accommodate up to 5,000 people with 22,500 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space, six meeting rooms with 9,200 square feet of space and 13,500 square feet of pre-function space.
Connected to the MVP arena, the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, and the Egg Performing Arts Center via enclosed walkways, the joined facility is collectively known as the Capital Complex, and together it comprises the largest meeting space in upstate New York. With a total of 159,000 square feet of exhibit space, its location spanning downtown Albany offers convenient walkable access to the New York State Capitol, business and warehouse districts, performing arts venues, museums, shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
Since opening its doors in 2017, the ACC has generated more than $77 million in total new visitor spending. It has hosted more than 900 events and conferences, attracted over half a million visitors to downtown Albany, and generated in excess of 112,000 hotel room nights. The ACC was designed, developed, financed, and constructed by the Albany Convention Center Authority (ACCA), established in 2004 by the New York State Legislature, and is responsible for the facility’s ongoing administration, operations, management, and maintenance.
Surviving the pandemic
“Covid hit us for two years,” recounts ACC General Manager Shannon Licygiewicz. “While it certainly was devastating for the hospitality industry, and our building was not alone in that, we kept our doors open with the help of the Albany Convention Center Authority. They allowed us to keep our employees, which was crucial, and we’re very thankful for the Authority’s support there.”
There were still some inevitable staffing challenges at the ACC during COVID-19, especially in the custodial and food and beverage operations. “Our team stepped it up and everyone pitched in,” says Licygiewicz. “Mazzone Hospitality, ACC’s exclusive catering company, even bused labor up from New York City to help with larger events. We also worked with our International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union, who did everything that it could to make sure that our events went off without a hitch. Even though we had some glitches in the system from time to time, our clients didn’t feel them. We just worked twice as hard to make sure we delivered a great product.”
“Also, we had to pivot,” Licygiewicz continues.
“We built a production facility in the building so that people could come and run their Zooms, their Teams meetings, and any other virtual presentations that they wanted. Our AV team, American Concert, and Entertainment Services, was wonderful in supporting us in the effort, coming up with the technology, building the space, and working with the infrastructure we already had in the building to make that happen. We were restricted to 25 people per event, so we did what we could to help our clients, whether it was a virtual message, a small board meeting, or a hybrid, where they had a few people here and a few at home.”
Fortunately, the relatively new ACC was more ready than most for the shift in technology. “Our Authority recognized that when it was building the facility, it was important to them to have forward-looking infrastructure. All the capabilities in this building were built for the future, and flexibility has been the key: not only were we running a show onsite, but we were also running a virtual show for people who weren’t there.”
“We successfully made it through. Last year was a recovery year; we ended the year with over 160 events, which our entire team is very proud of. We’re looking toward the future getting better and better,” she further highlights.
Licygiewicz adds that some of the changes made to accommodate the pandemic have remained in place. She says, “Today, we have a split with complete in-person events and a little bit of hybrid mixed in. A lot of people are still finding a good return on investment by having the hybrid option. The technology goes much further than we could have expected and I’m seeing it used in different ways. We’ve even seen a lot of events with virtual keynote speakers. That requires a high level of skill from the A/V team, which has adjusted to whatever the client is looking for.”
It takes a village
Regarding client satisfaction, Licygiewicz is quick to assert that it’s a group effort. “We don’t do this alone,” she states.
“We have a lovely catering company, Mazzone Hospitality; we have our audio/visual company, A.C.E.S; we have the team at Baker Public Relations; we have these core companies that we work with, and other companies that all come together to make these events happen. So, you’re not just getting an events management team. You’re getting a whole breadth of resources when you have an event with us and a whole group of people who are here to make sure that your event is at its best.”
The ACC also works closely with Discover Albany, an independent, non-profit corporation that serves as Albany County’s Official Tourism Promotion agency. “ Our partnership is crucial,” Licygiewicz explains.
“We rely on them to work with our convention clients and directly with area hotels downtown and in the Capital Region. They ensure that we have enough hotel room nights that will allow our guests to comfortably host their events in Albany.”
Maintaining client satisfaction
Now that the ACC is ostensibly out of the pandemic’s reach, the management team at ASM, as well as the ACCA, are back at work identifying areas for improvement. “It is very important that we always have a fresh look and always remain competitive in this market,” Licygiewicz avers.
“One of the things that has helped us is our survey program,” she continues.
“We asked our guests questions like, ‘What would you like to see done differently?’ which spearheaded a lot of our planning. Now that we have successfully proven we are on the right track, and there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we’re looking at things like replacing the carpets, revisiting color schemes and perhaps adding some wallpaper treatments, tiling or detail on some of the walls. We’re making sure when people come in they’re having that ‘Wow!’ moment, making sure that everyone’s experience is the best it could be, and coming up with truly unique encounters .”
When it comes to staying competitive, the ACC already has several differentiating advantages.
“We have an air purification system that gives us some of the best air quality in the Capital Region,” Licygiewicz proffers. “I don’t know of any other facility in our area that has that technology, and it’s been very successful for us. We’re versed on being able to deliver a customized experience and we train on how to work with clients on everything from a birthday party to a corporate team event.”
Going forward, Licygiewicz says she would like to grow the ACC’s meeting and convention business by another 10-15% in 2024. She is also looking forward to more multi-day as opposed to one-day events, something that is particularly helpful in filling hotel room nights.
“That’s a good thing to see multi-day events come back in the hospitality industry,” she notes. “Those are the types of events that suffered the most during COVID and to see them come into play for 2024 is a wonderful thing. We might end up having fewer events on the calendar, but it means that more of our days are filled with one event rather than a lot of little ones put together.”
A full calendar signals recovery
Events slated for the ACC this calendar year include several large conventions, trade shows, and expos, various sports competitions and championships and many governmental and organizational conferences and summits.
“The calendar speaks to the breadth of the business that has come back,” says Licygiewicz in conclusion. “The convention center was built for its economic impact – getting people in from outside the area so they can stay at our hotels, and spend money in our restaurants, and spend money in Albany county.”
“To have all of those events finally come back in this market is just a wonderful thing,” she concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
The Albany Capital Center
WHAT: A premier event and meeting destination
WHERE: Albany, New York