Fresh MEET

Downtown events center aims for special niche

The real work of closing big deals at conventions is usually done off-site, away from the hoopla, banners and noise of other vendors, in a conference room or ballroom where companies can host private receptions or entertain favored clients. But these spaces have their own distractions—especially in Las Vegas—they’re not terribly exciting, and they tend to come with plenty of regulations. (Vendors aren’t allowed to repaint the walls, for one.)

Dan Maddux envisioned a different kind of meeting space, a more exclusive venue located in downtown. In March, he opened MEET Las Vegas in a former bank building at the corner of Fourth and Bridger Streets, giving the area a venue it lacked.

“What I wanted to do is carve out a special niche in Vegas as a boutique events center in the downtown core,” Maddux says.

Both inside and out, MEET has the sleek functionalism of an ultra lounge. At night, LED lights can be custom lit to bathe the three-story building in a variety of colors. Inside is 30,000 square feet of private, completely customizable space, which includes a Unistrut framing system on the first floor that allows users to alter the layout.

“What most facilities don’t have is a rigorous rigging infrastructure,” Maddux says. “If you want to take a [typical] ballroom you have to spend a significant amount of money to create the environment you want, and lay all the technology and spend a lot of money to cover all that up.”

MEET has a full-service kitchen with catering, an outdoor pavilion with valet parking, and computer training conference rooms on the top floor. There’s also plenty of eye candy, like the nine-screen plasma TV array, or the wall of fog that vendors can project images onto.

“It is a niche market that some people want,” says Jeremy Handel, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “There are some companies holding a corporate event and they don’t want to be in a resort.”

The question is whether this new kind of venture can take off downtown. “It’s a function of who their target market is,” says John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting. “If they’re going after smaller or local-type meetings, there’s probably a need for that.” The concept, he adds, makes sense, but the “question of location is a different story.”

Despite a glitzy opening bash, MEET hasn’t hosted many vendors. Maddux says he’s still trying to get to know event planners in anticipation of a busier 2011, when he expects MEET to “[show] some nice returns.”

Even during this recession, there are projects downtown that are either planned, under way or completed, and Maddux is bullish that many of them will create new demand for meeting space. Whenever that time comes, Maddux said MEET will be ready. “We can provide,” he says, “for a lot of other kinds of businesses.”