Overseeing the $12.5 million renovation of Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center might be at the forefront of Stacy Graven’s mind these days — at least until the renovation is completed in September — but it certainly isn’t the only subject capturing her attention. Graven, who has been Meydenbauer’s executive director since 1994 and has worked at the venue since before it opened to the public in 1993, also is focused on how to get people to visit — and stay — in Bellevue.
1. How has Bellevue changed since Meydenbauer Center opened in 1993?
When it opened in September 1993, Meydenbauer was located in “splendid isolation” on the east side of downtown. It was conveniently located near the freeway, but lacked nearby amenities. The adjacent blocks included a Taco Time, a Dairy Queen, a deli, and a few hotels located along 112th Avenue. Twenty-two years later, Bellevue’s skyline has been transformed with new high-rise office towers housing major corporations, residential apartments, and retail. Along with a number of new hotel properties in downtown, City Hall moved in across the street, and soon a light rail system will enable visitors quick and easy access to the convention center’s front door. Not only has the built environment changed, but the city’s demographics have changed as well. Bellevue is now a more exciting place for leisure visitors as well as convention groups and meeting attendees who enjoy being able to wrap up their events and enjoy the restaurants, shopping, and nightlife that have developed through the years.
2. Why should Bellevue care about attracting visitors?
Attracting visitors to Bellevue is like opening the front door to economic development. There is strong evidence that increasing visitors in a market leads to increases in the overall desirability of the destination as a place to meet, live, work, and locate businesses. The impacts, however, are even more immediate. When out-of-town travelers spend money on a hotel room, in a restaurant, or at any other business, they not only help that business — they also pay taxes that benefit us as residents. In fact, visitor spending in Bellevue generates over $127 in tax revenue per Bellevue household. Visitors also help create and sustain jobs.
3. What is Bellevue doing to market to a range of audiences? How has Bellevue’s increasingly diverse culture changed that marketing?
Visit Bellevue Washington serves the needs of a diverse audience in a variety of ways. Corporate meeting planners look for destinations that are accessible to their attendees and are rich with amenities and event spaces. While our hotels enjoy strong corporate demand midweek, they have capacity on weekends. Marketing Bellevue to leisure visitors and groups, like cheer, gymnastics, and dance competitions, generates demand for weekend hotel stays at lower rates. Leisure travelers appreciate Bellevue’s central location in the Puget Sound region, making it easy for them to enjoy wineries, mountains, water, and parks. Everyone can appreciate Bellevue’s clean, safe, and walkable downtown, and our shopping and dining options.
Bellevue’s culturally diverse population is reflected in events and activities around the city, including Bollywood productions, the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, and ethnic grocery stores and eateries. We actively promote the great cultural adventures in our new Bellevue Visitors Guide, which highlights cultural exploration itineraries that showcase our diverse community.