When it comes to growth in Pennsylvania, the Cordish Companies have continued to defy pandemic restrictions.
Amid Covid-19 shutdowns and restrictions, the Baltimore-based developer soldiered on to complete construction of not one but two Pennsylvania casinos—first, the Live! Pittsburgh Category 4 mini-casino in Western Pennsylvania, and, a month later, its crown jewel in the Keystone State, Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia.
Opened February 11 under full Covid restrictions, Live! Philadelphia constituted the most complete start-up property in the state to date—a 510,000-square-foot property including 2,200 slot positions, 121 table games, a sportsbook, a 29-table poker room and a combination of world-class and local-favorite restaurants, all integral to a 208-room luxury hotel.
But one element of Live! Philadelphia was still under construction at opening: meeting and convention space, certainly a challenge amid the lingering pandemic, but essential to achieving the property’s full potential. Last week, that was remedied when Live! Philadelphia unveiled its 15,000-square-foot Event Center, with property executives sharing champagne and a Live! logo-shaped cake with local tourism officials and media.
Flexible, Customizable Space
The Live! Event Center offers groups of all sizes customizable event space, including the 10,000 square-foot main Market Ballroom, two 1,600 square-foot breakout rooms, expansive pre-function options and three executive boardrooms combined with the services and amenities of the hotel and casino.
The four ballrooms are tailored to specific types and sizes of events. The main Market Ballroom features a high-tech performance stage and an 18-foot ceiling with eye-catching modern light fixtures and a maximum capacity of 1,000. The versatile room is offered up for meetings, large banquets and even weddings—a few actually were held there before the grand opening.
The Liberty Room and Rittenhouse Room, each with a maximum capacity of 100, offer settings for smaller meetings and breakout sessions, complete with all the most current high-tech amenities.
Boardroom-style sessions are accommodated by the Franklin Boardroom, Roosevelt Boardroom and Whitman Boardroom, all well-equipped spaces for high-level strategy sessions. Outside the meeting rooms is a stylish and contemporary Pre-Function Space that offers each group an individual, unique experience for networking, cocktail parties and other gatherings.
One unique option—rooftop event rentals atop the property’s parking structure, offering outdoor meetings with views of the Philadelphia city skyline and the Stadium District, the cluster of all the professional Philadelphia sports facilities, in the heart of which the property is located.
“This is a very exciting day,” said Joe Billhimer, Live! Philadelphia general manager and executive vice president of Cordish Companies, as the space was unveiled. “We’re adding another important piece of the puzzle that makes Live! Philadelphia an ultimate resort destination, in the heart of the Stadium District.”
Billhimer said the Event Center goes far in completing the operator’s vision of offering something for everyone. “I feel very strongly that we have achieved that goal; we see the event center as an ideal gathering place not only for weddings, meetings and special events, but for community and nonprofit gatherings,” he said.
“As we’ve said since we opened in February, we are committed to the city of Philadelphia and to the local community, and to hosting many community gatherings in the years to come.”
‘The Heart of It All’
“No matter the size of the gathering, our team of expert event handlers will handle every single detail,” added Judy Moore, senior vice president of marketing for Cordish Companies. “What makes this place so special is that we’re in the heart of it all. We have incredible entertainment and food offerings around the property, while being in the center of Philadelphia’s dynamic sports scene. Guests can also stay the night in our stunning hotel.”
The property’s restaurants, including the Zagat-rated No.1 steakhouse the Prime Rib and Luk Fu, the Asian fusion brand first developed at Live! Maryland, feature space that provides additional venues for business dinners and banquets in the form of private dining rooms. Luk Fu features a large private room with a circular table equipped with giant lazy Susan for community dining.
Local tourism and commerce officials were just as excited as the executives to welcome the new business attraction.
“Since early 2020 when the pandemic hit, our office has rallied around the unstoppable spirit of Philadelphia,” commented Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This exciting venue is testament to that spirit, having gone full-steam ahead and opened up in the middle of it all. It’s made a dream a reality during a most challenging time.”
Caren added that the location of Live! Philadelphia in the heart of the Stadium District is one of the strongest factors that will attract new business. “We have always featured the Stadium District as one of the key anchor benefits of holding events in our diverse portfolio of venues,” he said. “It stands out by comparison to many other major cities in that we have an entire stadium complex compact in one location, where each venue can benefit from the other. This new venue adds that much more value.
“This fantastic property is yet another development we can present to our prospects—to meeting planners, trade show organizers, sporting events.”
“From the moment you step into our facility, you are officially a part of the Live! family,” said Kelley Maddox, vice president of sales at Live! Philadelphia, in a press release announcing the launch of the center. “Live! is committed to providing guests with a best-in-class entertainment experience, led by a best-in-class team in one of the most unique and exciting locations in Philadelphia, the Stadium District…. We are setting a new standard for all meetings and events.”
Billhimer, commenting to GGB News after the unveiling, said the opening of the Event Center “adds that final piece to the puzzle of a full-fledged resort with a hotel and casino.” In fact, Live! is the only casino in the Philadelphia region with a full integral hotel and complete convention and meeting space, and aside from Wind Creek Bethlehem, the only casino in the state with all three elements.
Building Post-Covid Momentum
Billhimer says the first weeks of operation have been a good sign the center will be a long-term success. “We’ve been through Covid for the last six, seven months, but as the city has started to open up the convention criteria we’re allowed, we’re seeing bookings going through the roof,” he told GGB News.
“We’re seeing a lot of inquiries. Over the last month, we’ve seen 12 or 14 groups here. We’ve had our first concert in here for an Asian event. We’ve had a few weddings and a couple of charitable foundations.” According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the event space already has bookings as far out as 2025.
He adds that the resort also recently hosted a major slot-machine manufacturer, which showed games to Northeastern representatives of casinos that may not be traveling to this week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.
“The Event Center has been received very, very well,” Billhimer said. “This is what it’s like coming out of Covid, we hope.”