SEATTLE, WA-Two new projects adding 885 hotel rooms near the Washington State Convention and Trade Center has John Christinson, president and manager of the center, very thankful. The lack of adequate, easily-accessible rooms for attendees has occasionally cost the center business, says Christinson, though he did not have specific numbers on hand. With the convention center doubling the size of its heavy-load exhibition space to 207,000 sf, the room shortage could have doubled the size of the WSCTC’s headache as well. Fortunately, a 460-room expansion of the Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers and construction of the new, five-star, 425-room Elliott will ease the growing pains.

According to WSCTC marketing information, the center held 39 national conventions in 1998, with 200,644 delegates. Of that number, 190,942 attendees were from out of state. Regional events brought another 278,062 people to the facility. When its expansion is completed and operating in the summer of 2001, out-of-state delegates are estimated to increase annually by 70,000, bringing visitors requiring accommodations to 260,000. Once again, the WSCTC will be among the top 50 convention centers in the US.

Andrew Olson, president of the Seattle-based Chambers Group, which is in the business of conducting feasibility studies involving hotels, says convention planners often want the capability of housing the majority of their attendees at one hotel. Christinson agrees, and he bemoans the fact that events now may have to use two, and sometimes up to four hotels, to accommodate all of their people. The convention president says construction of the new rooms at the Sheraton and Elliott will be a “real boon” for the WSCTC as it will “make the marketing of the destination much stronger.”

Following several years of off-and-on-again plans to add to the existing 840-rooms of the Seattle Sheraton Hotel and Towers, the hotel formally entered the design phase by applying with the City’s Department of Design, Construction and Land Use for an early design guidance meeting, set for early January. Sources say the Sheraton, recently renovated to the tune of $14 million, became more serious about adding the rooms after the WSCTC broke ground on its expansion in January 1999. No start date has been set for the new 35-story tower.

To financially support the expansion, the convention center sold surplus air space above and below the exhibit hall to private developers, now constructing various projects with a total size of 1.7 million sf. One of those projects is the 29-story Elliott at 7th and Pine. The $140-million luxury hotel will add another 425 guestrooms and suites, on site. At least a partial opening of the Elliott is penciled in for May 1, 2001.

Olson tells GlobeSt.com that the introduction of so many hotel rooms may have some effect on the Seattle market, which last year experienced an occupancy rate of approximately 78%, but not a dangerous one. “It certainly won’t have a major impact or cause the demise of the market.”