The Hampton Roads Convention Center
Meeting the clients’ needs
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of the Hampton Roads Convention Center, as part of our series on best practices of American event venues.
The Hampton Roads Convention Center, which opened in 2005, is owned by the City of Hampton, Virginia, and managed by SMG, the worldwide venue management company. The Center has a total of 344,000 square feet of space, with 35 flexible event spaces, including a divisible exhibit hall, a grand ballroom, a conference center, and 14,000 square feet of pre-function space. The Center’s second-floor outdoor terrace, sheltered from the elements by a canopy overlooking sparkling fountains, provides a beautiful setting for receptions and outdoor luncheons. A covered walkway connects the building to a 295-suite Embassy Suites Hotel, and there are 1,700 hotels rooms within walking distance of the venue.
“We hold several hundred events a year, and they vary in size,” says General Manager, Eric Nealy. “Being a regional convention center, we’re able to host any gathering from one hundred to 10,000 attendees, so it’s not unusual for us to have ten different events going on at the same time – everything from banquets in our grand ballroom to consumer shows in our exhibit halls, to small functions throughout the meeting rooms. Our clients represent a combination of corporate, consumer, local associations, regional associations, government, and defense. We have about 60 full- and part-time employees in operations, housekeeping, maintenance, sales, event staffing, and then we subcontract some additional labor.”
According to Nealy, the Center’s main competitors for business are the Virginia Beach Convention Center, which is only 30 miles away, and the Richmond Convention Center, which is 60 miles away. “Virginia Beach has the oceanfront and Richmond has a central location. Still, the Hampton Roads Convention Center presents a location right at the geographic center of the Coastal Virginia region, near the Chesapeake Bay at the crossroads of I-64 and I-664. With service from two airports and Amtrak, there’s absolutely no need for convention delegates to fight traffic to go any further. Hampton is competitive and we specialize in exceeding our customers’ expectations. We strive to meet customers’ needs in every way possible,” Nealy asserts.
Samantha Snead, Director of Sales and Events Services agrees. “The service that we provide here is unparalleled,” she states. “Performance evaluations received from clients are overwhelmingly positive. They’re telling us how wonderful it was to work with our staff. Also, we look for inventive ways to keep the facility current with the latest innovations and decorative appointments that keep this setting beautiful for our customers.”
Some upcoming changes to the Center include converting an underused business center into a coffee shop and upgrading the ballroom. “It’s time,” says Nealy. “It generates over $3 million in revenue, but we want every client to have the sense that they are convening in a fresh space. We’re looking to make some big changes to give it that ‘wow’ factor.”
Nealy adds, “People expect to have robust technological amenities for their events, and we don’t want to disappoint. The Hampton Roads Convention Center is upgrading its Internet service with a $200,000 upgrade from 250 Mgs. to a Gig of service. We are updating all of our access points to ensure our clients experience seamless Wi-Fi connectivity.”
“Public safety is a national consideration that must be addressed by every venue. We want event attendees to feel safe inside the building and in our parking. High-definition cameras throughout the facility and way-finding signage both on the outside and inside of the building will help,” said Nealy.
The Center is also a member of Virginia Green, a statewide program that works to reduce the environmental impacts of Virginia’s tourism industry. Its “Green Statement” reads: “The Hampton Roads Convention Center is committed to searching for ways to be an earth-friendly steward and work together with our community to improve Hampton, Virginia’s environmental profile. We progressively strive to be as ‘green’ as possible, and we are committed to reducing our environmental impact by persistently looking for efficiencies and greener practices in our day-to-day operations.
“At the Center, we actively encourage recycling and overall waste reduction. Our water features recycle the water that is utilized; our large windows provide natural lighting; our restrooms feature motion-sensors on all toilets; and, we utilize ‘green’ cleaners and products. The Center has recently eliminated all Styrofoam usage and has introduced water coolers for our attendees instead of bottled water. The Center is actively monitoring and conserving energy usage at our facility. Implementing and encouraging greening efforts at the Hampton Roads Convention Center has both saved the facility in operating costs and encouraged green practices with our customers, clients, and the community.”
Going forward, Nealy says that the Center has no immediate plans to add any more space, but is mainly looking to reinvest in and advance the services they provide. “We have a very competitive market within a hundred miles of the Convention Center, so we make every effort to never say ‘no,’” he adds, in conclusion. “We strive for ‘yes’; we try to complement the business model of the meeting planner and we identify win-win solutions. We may think our spaces and services are great, but they must align with the customer’s needs. We make sure we listen and act to ensure their success, so they return.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Hampton Roads Convention Center
WHAT: A convention, conference, meeting, and social event space
WHERE: Hampton, Virginia
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