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This Week in Event Venues: Updates on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, Elon Musk's Convention Center Transportation System and More

Rounding up the latest news from hotels, convention centers, meeting spaces, restaurants and other event venues across the United States and Canada.

Washington State Convention Center's New Summit Building
After a series of delays, the Washington State Convention Center has secured the funding to complete its new Summit Building expansion, which broke ground in 2018. The Seattle venue is on track to open in mid-2022, when it will double the existing venue’s capacity; the new building already has 32 conventions scheduled from 2022 to 2026. More good news for the Washington State Convention Center? The property recently achieved GBAC STAR accreditation for its cleaning and safety efforts.
Rendering: LMN Architects

We're rounding up the biggest venue news of the week—in one convenient place. Got a tip? Get in touch!

In Case You Missed It
This month, we've continued highlighting new restaurants, hotels, and meeting and event spaces that have recently opened around the country. Check out our coverage of new event-ready venues in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Orlando/Central Florida, Houston, San Francisco, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Philadelphia, San Diego and Seattle. In Canada, we recently spotlighted new spaces in Montreal and Toronto.

And on our GatherGeeks podcast, BizBash founder David Adler caught up with hospitality expert and "No Vacancy" podcast host Glenn Haussman, who discussed what he's hearing from hotel organizers about the future. Click here to take a listen.

Here are seven more things you should know this week...

1. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund will soon start taking applications for grants.
This week, restaurant-focused publication Eater broke down what venues need to know about the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, authorized by the March stimulus bill. “If you run a bar, restaurant, bakery, food truck or catering outfit in need of help, you should start gathering documentation now and apply the first day you’re eligible,” wrote reporter Ryan Sutton, who notes that no firm launch date has been set for applications. “Individual venues can apply for grants of up to $5 million … Restaurant groups can seek up to $10 million as long as they have fewer than 20 locations and are not a publicly traded company. The first 21 days of the program will prioritize businesses run by women, veterans or people from economically and socially disadvantaged groups.” Read more on Eater.com.

2. Los Angeles is the first U.S. destination to receive a city-wide safety verification.
The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board has announced that it will be the first Sharecare VERIFIED destination in the U.S., through an initiative developed by Sharecare and Forbes Travel Guide. The comprehensive verification says that all L.A. hotels with more than 50 rooms have appropriate safety procedures in place, covering over 360 standards across health and hygiene protocols, cleaning products and procedures, ventilation, physical distancing, the guest experience and health safety communication with guests and employees.

Related: Click here to read our interview with L.A. Tourism president Adam Burke about how the city is preparing for the return of live meetings. 

3. Plans have been unveiled for Elon Musk’s underground transportation system at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has provided a first look at Elon Musk’s underground transportation system located beneath the 200-acre Las Vegas Convention Center campus. Called the Loop, the unique, $52.5 million solution will debut at the center’s first major convention, World of Concrete, in June. How it works: Up to 4,400 convention attendees per hour can be transported across the massive campus for free in all-electric Tesla vehicles—in less than two minutes (a journey that would take 25 minutes by foot). The system will be staffed with drivers initially, with the plan to operate them autonomously in the future.“We are excited to have partnered with Elon’s company to bring this transportation ‘first’ to our valued convention customers,” said Steve Hill, LVCVA president and CEO in a press release. “The expanded Loop system will be a game-changer and a new ‘must experience’ attraction for our visitors.”“We are excited to have partnered with Elon’s company to bring this transportation ‘first’ to our valued convention customers,” said Steve Hill, LVCVA president and CEO in a press release. “The expanded Loop system will be a game-changer and a new ‘must experience’ attraction for our visitors.”Photo: Stephen Morgan

4. A Nashville hotel is accepting cryptocurrency as payment.
Bobby Hotel
has become one of the first independent properties in the country to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment through a partnership with BitPay. Guests can scan a QR code upon checkout that allows payment through their crypto wallets; the currency can also be used for weddings, meetings and private dinner bookings. “As Bitcoin and cryptocurrency become more widely accepted forms of payment globally, it was important to find a way to provide our guests with the access and convenience of utilizing these currencies when visiting Bobby,” said Jeff Crabiel, area general manager of the 144-room hotel, which opened in 2018. 

5. MGM National Harbor has opened an outdoor casino.
Venues continue thinking creatively with their outdoor space, widely considered to be a safer option during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest fun example comes from the 308-room MGM National Harbor in Maryland, which this week debuted “Casino Al Fresco”—an outdoor gaming terrace where guests can enjoy slot machines amid panoramic views of Northern Virginia. “We are excited to open one of the country’s most unique gaming settings,” said Alex Alvarado, vice president of casino operations for the resort, which has a 160,000-square-foot indoor casino and 50,000 square feet of meeting space. “Our guests will love the ability to take their casino experience outside where they can enjoy a cocktail and fabulous views of the region.”

6. This Chicago hotel is using room lights to spread cheer.
A feel-good story out of Chicago: While closed for more than a year due to the pandemic, the Sheraton Grand Chicago has been using its room lights in a creative way to uplift the city's spirits. Team members have been flipping the switches of various rooms to display different designs and symbols on the exterior of the building; highlights have included a beer mug for St. Patrick’s Day, a heart for Valentine’s Day and a “W” shape for the Cubs. The hotel, which has 125,000 square feet of meeting space, plans to reopen soon with COVID safety protocols in place.

7. Are Esports venues the future of hybrid meetings? 
The recently renovated Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center in Arlington, Texas, thinks so. The 100,000-square-foot venue is part convention center, part international destination for competitive gaming—meaning it’s well-equipped to seamlessly include virtual attendees. An added bonus? Its onsite gaming center and VR arcade can offer team-building space for both in-person and virtual attendees. The stadium, which also features a full-service banquet kitchen, can hold up to 2,500 attendees. 

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