Saratoga County

Trade shows on rise in Spa City

Convention business in Saratoga Springs is better this year than it was in 2010 thanks to the expans

Convention business in Saratoga Springs is better this year than it was in 2010 thanks to the expansion of the Saratoga Springs City Center.

“We are looking at a very strong 2011 and an even stronger 2012,” said Mark E. Baker, president and executive director of the City Center.

When the thoroughbred racehorses leave Saratoga at the end of the summer, the convention business in the city switches into high gear.

“We pick up right after Labor Day into the first part of December,” Baker said.

For example, last week the F.W. Webb annual trade exposition attracted 800 people to the city center. This weekend the Automotive Recyclers Association of New York State will bring 200 people to Saratoga for its 50th anniversary conference.

Baker said that already most weekends in January, February and March are booked solid at the city center.

Baker said convention and event bookings have increased by 26 percent this year as compared to 2010 at the newly expanded and renovated Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway.

Instead of just one large exhibit space at the city center, the expanded center features two additional meeting spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows facing Broadway. The expansion was completed this spring but the city center stayed open throughout the two years of construction work.

“The increase in business is a direct result of the expansion and renovations,” Baker said.

In 2010, the City Center hosted 102 events. This year the center will host 138 events. In 2010, the center recorded 167.25 event days (paid days) while this year the center will have 199.75 event days, Baker said.

Looking forward to 2012, the city center has already booked 107 events with 232 event days.

Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, said “year to date we are ahead of last year.”

The convention and tourism bureau calculates convention business by room nights. This year is 6,000 room nights ahead of 2010 in the category of groups and conventions visiting the city, Garofano said.

“We are still booking business for 2011,” Garofano said. The bureau is also booking future dates, including dates in 2012 and some as late as 2016 and 2017.

“The expansion of the city center is helping us a great deal,” Garofano said. With the expansion, the city center can book multiple events at the same time.

Garofano said the current sluggish economy throughout the state and nation sometimes forces organizations to reduce the length of their conventions and meetings. For example, instead of meeting over three days, the organization may just stay in Saratoga Springs for two days to reduce costs.

“One of the reasons we are seeing increases is the effect of GlobalFoundries,” Garofano said.

GlobalFoundries is building a $4.6 billion computer chip manufacturing plant in Malta that will employ about 1,400 people starting next year.

SEMI, a leading association in the semiconductor field, held a convention in Saratoga Springs for the first time in May with 250 attendees from around the world. The association is coming back next spring, Garofano said.

Garofano said Saratoga Springs is in competition for conventions with such cities as Austin, Texas, Boston and San Francisco.

“We have better prices and are still in close proximity to the major gateway markets,” Garofano said.

“We usually do much better [than Boston and San Francisco] on the rates,” he said. “And we have a safe, walkable downtown.”

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