It’s a typical high-octane day in The City of Angels. After studio sessions of rapping with Jermaine Dupri, singing back up for Janet Jackson and laying down tracks with Nelly, it’s time for a stroll along the GRAMMY Museum’s Red Carpet.
We gawk at Chris Martin’s Sgt. Pepper-style garb from Coldplay’s Viva La Vida tour and Katy Perry’s fruit dress from her I Kissed a Girl performance at the 51st GRAMMY ceremony in 2009. Then there’s that showstopper simply known as “The Dress”–the exotic green Versace number with plunging neckline that J Lo barely wore in 2000.
Music industry hoopla is regally presented for memorable meetings at this 30,000-sf shrine within L.A. Live–Downtown Los Angeles’ 5.6 million-sf megawatt entertainment and sports district. Rolling out in blockbuster phases over the past decade, the $2.5 billion “live content campus” adds vibrant garnish to the neighborhood, which is home to the 770,000-sf Los Angeles Convention Center.
We’re never simply spectators in the 4-level museum, retreating to private pods with touch screens for our individual sessions with Jackson, Dupri and other artists. That’s the wow factor resonating with meeting planners, according to museum director Robert Santelli. “Groups can work as teams to create a special relationship with the music through our multimedia and interactive aspects.”
“We’ve made the GRAMMY Museum an L.A. Live point of entrance where attendees take a private docent tour, then get into the music making process,” says Dani-Lee Landa with 360 Destination Group dmc. “It’s also a great venue for scavenger hunts since it’s so diverse and engaging.”
For receptions there’s the 25-pax lobby, 200-seat Clive Davis Theater and 8,100-sf Target Terrace outdoor mezzanine handling 350 attendees with views of the LA skyline and iconic Hollywood sign. As with all L.A. Live venues that aren’t private restaurants, catering is handled exclusively by Wolfgang Puck.
A ROCKIN’ RENAISSANCE
L.A. Live’s grand opening bash in December 2008 reflected the glitz and glamour once reserved for Hollywood premieres. To no surprise, the venue often draws that same star power on any given night.
This complex encompasses Nokia Theater, STAPLES Center, a 100,000-sf special events deck, a flurry of eateries, and a 1,001-room convention headquarters hotel that combines JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE and The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles in a single 54-story tower.
Michael Krouse, senior vp of meetings and sales with LA Inc., the city’s CVB, notes that LA is marketed as five unique regions, with L.A. Live as part of the Downtown district.
“Planners can utilize a convention center, stage a big name concert at Nokia, get great NBA seats at STAPLES, have dinner functions at L.A. Live restaurants, and have attendees stay at JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton,” says Krouse. “Nowhere else in this city can you go to one place that has all this happening.”
At L.A. Live’s center is Nokia Plaza, an electric open-air space where 2,000 can red carpet ramble while celebrity chefs man food stations, mixologists pour signature libations and headliners perform, as live videos stream on oversized boards.
More intimate than its Nokia Theater sibling, the 59,000-sf Club Nokia accommodates up to 2,300 pax for emerging music acts and cultural shows. “We like the flexibility since it also has one of the best VIP lounges in the city,” says Landa.
On the heels of hosting a dinner in the lounge accommodating up to 350, Landa says she’s equally sold on the club’s larger concert area. “We’ll do a seated dinner or set up chairs for a great stage act with an amazing sound system,” she says. “We’ve had companies bring in name entertainment and sell some seats for charity.”
Smaller venues like ESPN Zone and the Latino-infused Conga Room have similar firepower for MICE functions. Among these, Landa is bowled over by celebrity-magnet Lucky Strike Lanes. “We’ll organize fashions shows where lanes are covered for a catwalk,” she says.
She also added a charity aspect that incorporated company colors on a special pin that rotated through the lanes. “If someone got a strike when it was in their alley, dollars were donated to the charity. It became very competitive.”
Up to 550 can take over the facility, while VIP gatherings of 75 can bowl away in the four-lane Luxe Lounge with private 20-ft bar and custom leather seating. From balconies overlooking the wattage outside, we graze on classic bowling cuisine with a twist like mac & cheese bites, grilled cheese sliders, soft pretzel dippers and grilled chicken cobb sandwiches.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW
Those high profile Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott debuts in 2010 boosted L.A. Live to that final dimension, converting the once lackluster neighborhood into a dynamic destination.
Perched on upper floors of the 54-story tower it shares with its sister hotel and The Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live, the sophisticated Ritz-Carlton achieves a fine balance between LEED standards and its hallmark interior aesthetics. From the moment I arrive, I’m swaddled with plush trappings and impeccable service.
With a palette of soft browns, caramel and baby blue, my 22nd floor retreat is decked out with a king bed, sofa, desk with oversized chair, mini-bar, and bathroom with dual sinks, Italian marble vanities, stone soaking tub, sleek walk-in shower and in-mirror television.
Outside my window, I catch L.A. Live’s massive 8,000-sf LED video display on the side of the JW Marriott. There’s a much larger than life image of Cyndi Lauper who’s set to perform at Club Nokia later that week. Again, it’s all about the energy.
I’m tucked onto the Club Level, which is a sinfully delicious upgrade for VIPs. Aside from four daily food and beverage presentations, I have access to a dedicated concierge arranging everything from complimentary limo service within the downtown area to concert and sporting event tickets.
What stands out about this hotel pairing is that while they’re both upscale, they exude two distinctive attitudes–“see and be seen” or “fly under the radar.” At the Ritz, I lay low for dinner 24 floors above it all at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 Restaurant, the celebrity chef’s latest concept spotlighting modern Chinese cuisine.
Seating 153, the urban garden-inspired lounge features large wooden seating pods with hand-woven undulating screens. Encapsulating the space are floor-to-ceiling perforated metal tubes spanning the 90-seat main dining room and the 10-seat Wine Cave, a private dining area with wall-to-wall vino displays.
In the lounge, our small plate tastings lay on the flavors with Szechuan chicken “dan dan” dumplings, prawn toast with sweet and spicy garlic chili, lobster and prawn spring rolls with 10-spice honey, and crispy shrimp and crab hand-cut sushi rolls.
Kyle Guerin of Pacific Dental Services’ marketing team held a kick-off party here for a VIP group attending the association’s Annual Extraordinary Performance Conference last summer. While the ultra chic architecture lends itself to status quo use, Guerin cleared the space to create a nightclub setting outfitted with karaoke.
“While the lounge is beautiful, we wanted it to be more fun than sleepy to match LA,” says Guerin. “So we brought in a DJ and set up karaoke. The view is just beautiful up there with the city lights and mountains.”
At the 878-room JW Marriott, Chef Kerry Simon’s LA Market is much less secluded. Located off the lobby, the open eatery connects to the outside buzz with large glass windows and convenient pass-through space to Nokia Theater.
While we dive into sushi pizza, bricked organic chicken and market ratatouille, we watch the crowds rolling onto Nokia Plaza for Los Angeles Food & Wine. Planners have a full calendar of these L.A. Live events to weave into MICE agendas.
Splitting his 1,350 guests between the sister hotels, Guerin was wowed by 100,000 sf of shared indoor meeting space, plus individual pool decks and ION Bar for outdoor gatherings.
“We used every square inch of space with our group,” he says. “We held meetings in the three main ballrooms. And we had receptions in breakout areas.”
Comprising the bulk of that space are the 25,000-sf Diamond, 20,700-sf Platinum and 17,000-sf Gold ballrooms accommodating up to 2,300 for receptions and 1,480 for seated banquets.
“L.A. Live has done a great job of creating a Times Square vibe,” says Guerin. “And it has the excitement of Las Vegas without the congestion. There’s such great self-contained energy that you can stay right in this area.”