Albany Capital Center
A state-of-the-art success story
Business View Magazine interviews Shannon Licygiewicz, General Manager of Albany Capital Center, for our focus on Convention and Event Venues.
A highlight of downtown Albany, New York, the Albany Capital Center (ACC) is a state-of-the-art facility, offering convention, ballroom and meeting space for small groups or large gatherings of up to 5,000 people. The stunning glass building is directly connected to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, and the Egg Performing Arts Center, and conveniently joined to the Times Union Center by an enclosed walkway. Known as the Capital Complex, these facilities cover more than 159,000 square feet, making up the largest meeting space in Upstate New York. Operated by ASM Global, Albany Capital Center is situated in the heart of Albany’s historic downtown – surrounded by top notch restaurants, entertainment, and attractions.
Within ACC’s 53,000 square feet of available space are all the latest in amenities and technology, including a color-changing LED ceiling on the second level – a customizable feature for displaying visual graphics. ACC also offers charging stations, plasma screens, and comfortable seating areas for networking. Newly opened in 2017, Albany Capital Center showcases the history of the community.
General Manager Shannon Licygiewicz reports, “We have an amazing mural display throughout the first level and second level done by a local artist named Dahl Taylor. They depict the 400-plus-year history of Albany; things that were invented in Albany, the history of the Dutch culture that originally settled here. If you’re not from Albany, it’s wonderful to learn about the rich history as you’re looking at the murals. If you are from Albany, the murals provide an opportunity to learn something about the area that you may not have known. Either way, it’s a really unique feature of the facility.”
Employing only 15 to 20 full-time staff, the center relies on 200 or more part-timers to keep things moving during normal times. We are closer to 10 to 12 full-time people now,” says Licygiewicz, “but we’ve been very lucky to stay open during the pandemic. It has allowed our team to continue to work together and develop entirely new and innovative offerings, some of which we plan to keep, even once COVID is said and done.”
Pivoting quickly to digital offerings, ACC worked with its Audio/Visual team, American Concert and Entertainment Services (A.C.E.S.), to put together a production office within the facility. Licygiewicz recounts, “It was an amazing opportunity for us to continue working with clients. They could walk into the space, sit down, and our tech team would run everything else for them. They would facilitate the virtual platform, they had the cameras and the TVs, and it really looked like a studio in the space. So that became a way for us to assist clients immediately. When all of this happened, people still had messages to get out there, and they wanted to do it in a professional manner.”
To further connect with clients during COVID, the ACC team worked together to create and launch a webinar series. Highlighting a different topic each week, staff were able to offer information on relevant topics such as event cancellations, supporting the food and beverage industry, and technology. The webinar series ran weekly for two months. Licygiewicz describes, “Every week, we came up with a new topic, and it was wildly accepted. People got excited watching it because we were all trying to learn together. It was a way to keep Albany Capital Center in the forefront of people’s minds and provide the knowledge and energy needed to keep things going. We were really proud and happy to do that.”
ACC staff worked with their Public Relations agency and Discover Albany, to promote the webinars, reaching out to clients through email and social media. “Through our long list of meeting planners and clients that we work with, we basically took that list and emailed information explaining the webinar series. Everyone was excited to tune in every week and ask questions and it became a really great resource for us,” says Licygiewicz.
Staying open during the pandemic meant following the guidelines put out through the CDC and the State of New York. At times when capacity limits were very small, Albany Capital Center was able to offer space for small board meetings, moving into training sessions and small company meetings as the directions changed. Sports was a surprising opportunity for the center, which has three basketball courts. With local colleges and other courts unavailable, ACC was prepared to offer a safe space for sports to be played indoors. “We worked with camps, they just held different sessions to keep the numbers down,” says Licygiewicz. “100 kids would come in for a clinic, then we’d have an hour where we would sanitize and clean the building, and then another 100 would come in. We did a lot of different sports that way. We had a Futsal camp, and we also hosted quite a bit of basketball and volleyball. ACC was very heavily utilized in the sports market during the past 15 months.”
New York began re-opening in May of 2021, a time which Licygiewicz says felt like “light at the end of the tunnel.” The phones started ringing and bookings were rolling in for the fourth quarter, until the Delta variant spiked in the area and the uncertainty returned. “I call it the roller coaster ride,” says Licygiewicz. “Your heart goes out to all the meeting planners in the business. What they are trying to do is not easy. We all wish that we had a crystal ball to know what the future was going to hold.”
With many clients booking hybrid events into 2022, Albany Capital Center works with individual groups to tailor an event that works for their specific needs. “Everyone’s definition of hybrid is different,” Licygiewicz explains. “Each client has a different goal that they want to achieve with their meeting or social event. We’ve even done a couple of social events virtually. Working with our catering company Mazzone Hospitality, the clients picked up meals here at Albany Capital Center, took them home, and then were able to watch a virtual gala on their TVs while they ate the same dinner that other people were eating. Everyone has really stepped outside of the box and that has been one of the silver linings. At this point, whatever you want to make happen, our team will help you get there, whether it’s a hybrid, in-person, or virtual meeting, our team will provide a safe and friendly environment, we have every model covered. We just want people to know that events can happen, and they can happen safely.”
For future planning, Albany Capital Center is still offering virtual event hosting services, with full streaming capabilities on all platforms. For in-person events and meetings, ACC has introduced Bipolar Ionization Technology, an air purification system which improves air quality and reduces airborne and surface contaminants, including viruses, to ensure a safe experience for every guest. Additionally, ACC was recently awarded Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR-accreditation, the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation in the facilities industry.
A large facility like Albany Capital Center relies on relationships with outside companies to help create a perfect experience for clients. Clifton Park Rental, a family-owned company in operation since 1973, is a premier event rental company often supplying products to ACC. “A lot of the shows that come through need equipment that is outside of what we are able to provide,” says Licygiewicz. “Clifton Park Rental is one of those companies that can come in and do amazing things for our space. It is a great partnership. We see them as an extension of our business and a trusted partner to have our clients work with.”
Mazzone Hospitality, a world class catering company offering delicious options from simple to elaborate, is another important partnership for Albany Capital Center. During the past months, as many food items became prepackaged, Mazzone found innovative ways to avoid packaging waste – a huge problem during the pandemic. An effort that Licygiewicz says was appreciated by ACC clients and staff.
Finding a way back to normal will be an exercise in patience for Albany Capital Center. As Licygiewicz explains, “It is a real domino effect that is going to take everything from the travel industry to the hotel industry to reset itself. The most important part is to continue having productive, customer-friendly relations, and working with our partners creatively to find solutions to the ups and downs of the next couple of years. It’s nice to slow down and have a conversation with your client to really figure out what’s happening on their side. That, and just a continued stress on the importance of teamwork and moving forward day by day.” The short-term vision for Albany Capital Center might not be set in stone, but it is filled with innovation, success and possibility.
AT A GLANCE
Albany Capital Center
WHAT: A premier event and meeting destination
WHERE: Albany, New York
Clifton Park Rental – www.cliftonparkrental.com