Denver Meetings and Events to Benefit from $7 Billion in Investment
By Beth Buehler
Denver has been busy strategically directing $7 billion into its future. Improvements to Denver International Airport, Denver meetings and events venues, arts and cultural facilities, and additions and upgrades in the hotel sector will ensure that The Mile High City continues to be one of the best U.S. meetings destinations. Planners and meeting attendees are sure to notice enhanced experiences and plenty of new happenings in The Mile High City.
Key Venue Upgrades
Major improvements and additions also are underway at several key Denver meetings and events facilities. Colorado Convention Center is undergoing a $233 million expansion that features new flexible meeting and ballroom space totaling up to 80,000 square feet; the addition of pre-function and service space, including an outdoor terrace on the roof of the existing convention center; and major technology improvements such as increased capacity for Wi-Fi and streaming video. New and improved networking spaces are being incorporated, and the pre-function and outdoor event spaces are designed to have unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains and city skyline.
Only one train stop from downtown’s beautifully restored Denver Union Station is National Western Center, which is slated to play a much larger role in Denver meetings and events upon completion of a $1 billion project that is currently underway and expected to be fully completed in 2024. Major highlights include construction of more than 2.2 million square feet of new indoor and outdoor space designed to host conferences, outdoor festivals, innovation and research labs, farmers’ markets, and everything in between. The project also is activating six acres of riverfront that has been inaccessible.
Hotel & Public Space News
Sheraton Denver Downtown, with 1,238 guest rooms, 138 suites and 133,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit spaces, is the largest hotel in Denver and one of the first five in the world to introduce all the components of the new Sheraton brand. Through an $80 million renovation that recently wrapped up, all guest rooms, public and meeting spaces, and the lobby have been transformed and new world-class culinary and beverage options introduced. Drawing inspiration from the grandeur and light of architect I.M. Pei’s original design for the hotel, the new porte-cochere, lobby entry and signature bar create a striking statement at the east end of downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall.
In what only can be described as synchronicity, the pedestrian 16th Street Mall, also designed by the internationally renowned architectural firm I.M. Pei & Partners of New York, is undergoing a $130 million refresh. The poly-chromatic granite pavers are being repaired, transit lanes for the free MallRide shuttle are being moved to the center or offset-center of each block, and sidewalks expanded for walking, café seating and other activities.
Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo) is welcoming the new McGregor Square next to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies professional baseball team. A 35,000-square-foot Rockies Hall of Fame experience and public gathering spaces combine with urban retail and restaurants, a food hall, The Rally Hotel, multi-family residential, and office spaces. Everything centers around a 17,000-square-foot public plaza that is intended to be a pre- and post- game gathering place for Rockies fans on game day and a year-round venue. The Rally Hotel opened in March 2021 and features 182 guest rooms and 4,000 square feet of indoor meeting space.
Several other new hotels of interest to groups are slated to launch in 2021. In the River North Art District (RiNo) Vīb Denver is adding 140 new guest rooms, 2,000 square feet of meeting space and a 365-degree rooftop bar and eatery in late 2021. Located near the 38th and Blake Commuter Rail Station, the seven-story Catbird Boutique Hotel is scheduled to open in mid-2021 and features 165 rooms, a 3,300-square-foot rooftop bar that is available for events, and a ground-floor restaurant.
In downtown, Thompson Denver on Market Street is the first Colorado property for this boutique Hyatt brand and will feature 216 rooms and 8,000 square feet of meeting space. Luxury suites, a ground-floor signature restaurant, and an indoor/outdoor terrace with lounge and bar on the sixth floor. Another Hyatt property, the 14-story Hyatt Centric, is introducing 263 guest rooms and meeting space on Champa Street in fall 2021. Groups will appreciate the lobby bar and restaurant and a rooftop bar with outdoor terrace.
The former Inn at Cherry Creek, located in Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood, has undergone a total overhaul inside and out and is reopening as The Clayton in May 2021. Expect 63 guest rooms, 5,000 square feet of meeting space, great food and beverage options.
The best way to kick off a meeting is with smooth transportation both in the air and on the ground. Over the last 25 years, Denver International Airport (DEN) has grown from 33.1 million to more than 69 million passengers annually. In response, DEN is undergoing two phases of improvements totaling more than $2 billion.
Phase I, Gate Expansion is adding 39 new concourse gates to increase the airport’s overall capacity by 30 percent. Travelers will notice increased dining and shopping options, outdoor decks for fresh air, a variety of comfortable seating choices, and more charging stations. Completion is expected by the end of 2021, with gates airline operational in 2022. Phase II, Concourse Renewal is focused on restroom improvements, carpeting, furniture, ceilings, way-finding, and moving walkways and escalators. This phase will be completed by 2024.
Thriving Cultural Scene
Two of Denver’s longtime cultural treasures that also serve the meetings and events market also are receiving plenty of love. The $36 million renovation of the 185,000-square-foot Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is nearly complete. DCPA made the best of these quieter COVID times to put this project on the fast track so it will be fully ready when audiences and groups can return.
Denver Art Museum is reopening its expanded and reimagined campus to the public on October 24, 2021, unveiling all eight levels of the Lanny and Sharon Martin Building (formerly the North Building) and the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center. The $150 million Sie Welcome Center, a 50,000-square-foot, elliptical-shaped structure, adds to DAM’s already impressive selection of meeting and event spaces and features a visitor center, expanded public gallery spaces, and two new restaurants. Sturm Grand Pavilion, located on the second level, encompasses more than 10,000 square feet of event and programming space and is enclosed by 25-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling glass panels.
The much-lauded Meow Wolf opened its first permanent installation in Sante Fe, New Mexico in 2016 and expanded to Denver with the launch of Kaleidoscope, a “thrill ride of the mind” at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, in 2019. The highly anticipated fall 2021 opening of Meow Wolf’s largest installation yet, a 90,000-square-foot location, is being filled with interactive art created by more than 110 local artists alongside partner artists and artists from the Meow Wolf team.
With all this happening, it’s easy to get excited about visiting Denver and bringing a group to this vibrant city!
Lead photo of Denver skyline courtesy of VISIT DENVER.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.