Why Atlantic City's Claridge wants the convention crowd

(Claridge Hotel)

The Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City is building a 15,000-square-foot conference center as part of a $3-million project that also includes a rooftop bar and a restaurant.

Work on the expansion is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. When finished, the conference center will have six breakout rooms and will be able to hold up to 600 people.

The 24-story hotel is one of Atlantic City's oldest, and opened in 1930 during the Great Depression. Cem Erenier, VP of hotel operations and business development for Claridge, said in a statement that shifting the hotel's focus to meetings and conventions is necessary as it lacks a casino.

"“Our guests are not gamblers. They’re vacation seekers, couples, families and they want to get away. Ninety-five percent of our business is non-gamblers,” Erenler said. “We have lots of companies that are asking for corporate business in a non-casino hotel."

Meet AC, a grope promoting Atlantic City as a meetings destination, said the number of hotel rooms booked due to meetings and conventions were up 48 percent for 2016, though recent instability in Atlantic City's markets have resulted in a decline that have cut 2016 projections by 40 percent. Despite this, Meet AC president and CEO Jim Wood said the Claridge expansion is a good idea.

"I really think that’s a nice addition to the Claridge to add a meeting space. It signifies that the group market is emerging here in Atlantic City,” Wood said in a statement. "Everyone will continue to evaluate the meeting spaces they have and to determine if they want to grow their meetings market. We’re optimistic that there will be growth in our marketplace through the meetings market and that will drive more business into Atlantic City"