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Darien Lake opens conference center

Your next business meeting could include a stroll down the midway and a quick ride on the Ride of Steel during downtime from PowerPoint presentations.

Darien Lake has opened a 2,000-square-feet facility that will mix amusement park fun with conferences and meetings.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Denis Kohl, director of accommodations for the park. “The progression into business meetings and gatherings seem to be a natural progression for us.”

Darien Lake’s new Conference and Meeting Center will hold up to 70 people, and it will also provide traditional business meeting offerings such as audio visual equipment, flip charts, note pads and pens. It will also offer unlimited access to the coasters and rides during the park’s in-season to meeting participants and their families.

Kohl said the combination will give business meetings a new spin.

“We are so unique; they can have breaks with cotton candy,” he said.

Kohl said the park had toyed around with the idea of building a meeting facility for years after seeing the demand. Last year, the park served 70,000 picnic meals, and more than 400 companies used its picnic grounds for their corporate getaways.

“But the companies had been asking to use our property in a way not traditional to the theme park,” he said, “and that was the catalyst.”

An overnight stay in the park hotel is required to book the conference facility. From January to May 10, when the park is closed, conference center and hotel rates start at $79 per person for a two-night stay, and the in-season pricing, from May 11 through October, starts at $175 per person per night for a two-night stay.

Each package includes free team-building activities. In-season packages include unlimited access to the park’s rides and roller coasters, as well as exclusive ride time, when booked in advance.

During the off-season, closer to the park’s opening day, the park’s rides can be turned on for conference attendees, weather permitting, and they’ll have the park all to themselves.

While the facility was built with corporations in mind, it’s available for all functions with groups of at least 20 people, including wedding receptions and family reunions, Kohl said. But the park has long had hotel packages for groups that include unlimited access to the park’s rides and roller coasters.

Holiday Valley has also added a conference facility to its business – an addition that has boosted its bottom line.

“Our main business is definitely as a ski resort, but conference meetings are more important every year – one hand feeds the other,” said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing for Holiday Valley.

Last December, the resort opened the Holiday Valley Lodge, a $12 million, 66,000-square-foot facility, which serves as a base lodge during ski season and year-round conference center.

The new lodge allows the resort to host corporate getaways in the winter. Eshbaugh said there is already a 15 percent increase in conference meeting bookings.

While it’s still early, Darien Lake’s facility is showing promise – all of May is already booked.

“We have quite a number of contracts out right now,” Kohl said.