Steve Goodling has served as the president and CEO for the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau since 2001. He recently helped oversee $50 million in improvements to the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Complex, culminating with the opening last year of the Terrace Theater Plaza Fountains, part of an ambitious effort to create “unique turnkey special event spaces.”
CAM+E: Tell us about these new turnkey venues and what makes them special.
SG: We opened our third turnkey special event space this past year with the Terrace Theater Plaza Fountains, which create a Bellagio-style fountain experience where water and sound and colored lights are synchronized and can be customized for groups holding events on the plaza. The other spaces include the Cove, a California food truck street party venue, and the Pacific Ballroom, which offers 46,000 square feet of pillarless event space and $2 million worth of built-in stage lighting. We own all our assets—furniture, LED lighting, cabanas, even pingpong and foosball tables—and we don’t charge rental fees.
Beyond th e budget considerations, today’s attendees want an interactive event that’s memorable and creative. They don’t want to be seated at a table or lectured to at a dinner. As one client told us, “a ballroom is a ballroom is a ballroom.” With our three special event spaces, planners can create what we like to call an “Instagrammable” experience.
CAM+E: When trying to set Long Beach apart, what’s your pitch?
SG: For one, there are no other convention centers or even large-scale convention-style hotels that have our type of turnkey special event spaces. Second, we are one of only three waterfront downtowns in all of California. Third, we’ve had explosive growth in our downtown area, with more than 120 restaurants in an eight-block radius, which creates a vibrant and eclectic environment in the evening.
CAM+E: What other sites should be included in a Long Beach itinerary?
SG: A special event on the Queen Mary is always a unique experience and offers a wonderful view of our skyline. The Aquarium of the Pacific is fun to visit or to host a special event. And then we have our waterways, where you can take a harbor cruise, ride a Duffy boat or enjoy the gondolas on the canals in Belmont Shores and be serenaded by music majors from Cal State Long Beach. We also have wonderful museums and two of the original California ranchos. I hear all the time from planners that they never knew just how much Long Beach has to offer.