As group travel and the meetings market inch near a full comeback, Orange County hotels have turned to its venue spaces and beyond to capitalize on the returning crowds.
Anaheim continues to dominate the market with Orange County’s three largest hotel meeting venues—the Disneyland Hotel, Hilton Anaheim and the Anaheim Marriott—representing 500,000 square feet of meeting space.
This year’s Business Journal list of the top Hotel Meeting Rooms includes 35 hotels totaling 1.9 million square feet of meeting space, from 17,500 square feet at the Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa to nearly 216,000 square feet at the Disneyland Hotel.
As part of the many renovation and construction projects taking place at hotels across the county, local hotels looked to revamp underutilized spaces over the past two years to create unique meeting and event venues, largely a response to the pandemic’s call for new-and-improved venues.
In: vibrant outdoor gathering hubs.
Out: commodity conference rooms.
The Renaissance Newport Beach, ranked at No. 13, was one such property engaging less traditional spaces for events.
Director of Sales and Marketing Michael Swyney pointed to the hotel’s orchard terrace, which touts resort views and is connected to a garden and the existing citrus ballroom. A former wine cellar has also been converted into a new meeting space, upping its meeting space footprint to 47,452 square feet.
No. 22 the Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano also added nontraditional spaces under its overall venue count as changes in management prompted a new look at spaces that weren’t being utilized, according to General Manager Matthew Harrison.
New options include open lawn spaces as well as the resort’s pool and spa decks for different functions for “more unique spaces that other guests haven’t seen before,” Harrison said.
The historically inspired site counts 35,700 square feet of space.
A few hotels wrapped up major renovations to its facilities in 2022 that included a focus on meeting space.
Vea Newport Beach finished its overhaul last June with several updates to its events offerings. One major change was a former restaurant that was redeveloped into larger ballrooms with connectivity to large outdoor spaces.
The now 400-room property remains at No. 7 on the list with more than 60,000 square feet.
Traveling closer inland to the tourism hotspot that is Anaheim, the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort updated virtually all aspects of its property through a $33 million renovation project.
Aiming to capture additional group business, the resort converted one ballroom into three venues, including two meeting rooms and a new 1,820-square-foot Harbor Ballroom.
Keeping its total of 31,649 square feet of space, the Sheraton also upgraded the technology in all meeting and events rooms to match up with the audio, visual and digital needs of post-pandemic clients.
A few properties in the midst of redevelopment remain on the list despite not having their designated meeting spaces currently available.
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, No. 29, is set to become the Pixar Place Hotel with construction already underway. The property’s new theme will feature settings and areas inspired by films from Walt Disney’s Pixar Studios.
It currently counts over 26,000 square feet of function space across three floors with meeting rooms, ballrooms and a poolside outdoor area.
The hotel is also getting a new restaurant on the first floor—Great Maple, marking the second OC location for the American eatery. Its first is at Fashion Island.
Tied at No. 32, the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel is scheduled for a $25 million transformation to be completed this year. Changes are in store for guest rooms, conference rooms and an 8,400-square-foot banquet venue.
Updates will also include a more historic theme pointing to the 54-year park’s founders, Walter and Cordelia Knott.
The hotel, which counts 20,000 square feet of meeting space, will remain open during construction, although the banquet spaces will close between Feb. 1 and the end of July.
Missing Yet Active
Hotels currently in development that are missing from this year’s list once again are the Hotel Irvine and the upcoming Pendry Newport Beach.
Both properties have not been taking reservations since the start of the pandemic but have since changed ownership and have reopening plans after the three-year closures.
The Hotel Irvine at one point operated 50,000 square feet of meeting space. The Irvine Company sold the 541-room resort to Chicago’s Hyatt Hotels Corp. (NYSE: H) for $135 million in August.
The hotel is slated for “an extensive hotel-wide renovation,” Hyatt said in a statement. An official time frame for the reopening has not been disclosed. It previously ranked at No. 10 on the Business Journal’s list.
The Pendry Newport Beach, previously the Fashion Island Hotel, changed stewardship from the Irvine Co. to an affiliate of Eagle Four Partners in a $144 million deal. Officials said the rebrand would result in a hotel that would fill upcoming leisure and business travel demand.
This will be Newport Beach-based Montage’s first Pendry venture in OC and is expected to open this summer.
A notable venue addition will be a new social club for the Newport Beach scene, with details expected to follow in the coming months, according to officials.
The 20-story resort previously sported 22,000 square feet of meeting space, all indoors.