Hilton Portland Downtown completed an extensive renovation last year that featured guestroom upgrades and the conversion of a former athletic club into 6,500 feet of new meeting space. Eric Walters, who took over as general manager of Hilton Portland in 2015 after five years at Hilton Vancouver Washington, spoke with Connect about the upgrades to the hotel, one of the host properties for Connect Diversity next week.
Can you summarize the recent renovation that took place?
We made sure the design was clean, timeless, and contemporary. We used design elements to emphasize the uniqueness of Portland and the surrounding outdoor areas. For example, when you enter the lobby of the Hilton, you’ll see a 40-foot coffee table out of an Oregon Black Walnut tree that’s now become a gathering place for guests.
How does this expansion change what you’ll be able to do in terms of hosting events?
We were able to add a new 5,500-sq.-ft atrium ballroom that has natural light from three sides, including a large skylight across the top of the room. This brings our total meeting space up to nearly 70,000 square feet. This allows us to host larger events, or two medium-sized events.
What’s the range of events that you host at the hotel?
We have nearly a million visitors that come to Hilton Portland each year. Our meetings range from small board oom meetings to our largest event of the year, a Champagne Ball on New Year’s Eve with over 3,000 attendees.
One of the most unique events we’ve had was in March 2016, when we hosted the National Indoor Track & Field Championships. Athletes from over 80 countries came to stay and dine while they were competing at the nearby Oregon Convention Center.
What do attendees at Connect Diversity have to look forward to?
February is a great time to be in Portland. There’s a number of festivals that are occurring. Right after the convention is the Portland International Film Festival, and right before the convention is the Portland Seafood & Wine Festival, which is a great way to experience Portland.