Shortly before Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston opened its doors. Flash forward a dozen years, and Houston is preparing to welcome a 1,000-room Marriott Marquis months before the NFL’s big game returns in 2017.
You can debate which is the chicken and egg—the developments or the Super Bowls—but there’s little argument Houston has made the most of its opportunities in the spotlight. And the winners are the planners coming afterward who will have a revitalized downtown at their disposal.
“They benefit from us getting ready for the big stage,” says John Solis, vice president of convention sales and services at the Greater Houston CVB.
George R. Brown Convention Center, in the heart of the development, stands to gain the most. Not only will Marriott bring the total number of connected hotel rooms to 2,200 (the Hilton is attached as well), the facility is getting a renovation.
Solis says one of the most noticeable additions will be a front door, located in the center of its exhibit halls. The concourse is being reconfigured to add 90,000 additional square feet. Outside, a 12-acre park has replaced a six-lane thoroughfare. More than a dozen restaurants will add to Houston’s heralded foodie scene.
“We’re creating an atmosphere for people to come and spend time downtown,” says Solis.
The proximity to so many amenities will be attractive to meetings planners and attendees. Solis says in the past month he locked in the National Rifle Association and the American Nurses Association for future events. The good news adds upon 2015, a record year for convention and tourism.
But before next year’s Super Bowl is the 2016 Final Four, making its second trip to Houston this decade. Solis says the returning business is an indication that the developments are paying off.
“It makes sense,” he says. “We have an enhanced package that feels fresh.”