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.
It will host media and the NFL’s fan zone during next year’s Super Bowl week. 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 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 youth sports planners and NGOs.
IWF World Weightlifting Championship was held in Houston in November 2015—a time of year Houston apparently excels at selling. An alliance formed last year with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority has already paid off in the form of the World Corporate Games, scheduled for Nov. 16-19, 2017.
“It made a lot of sense to be aggressive about it, and we were,” says Solis of the Corporate Games, noting that the November time slot allowed Houston to offer the necessary incentives to win the bid. USA Volleyball and the Junior Olympics are also on Houston’s radar.
Solis adds that he’s looking toward sporting events to help fill his calendar for summer months in 2020 and 2021. But before that and 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.”