Convention Center hotel will include a rooftop bar

The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to bring more millennials into the area. One feature of the Bradenton Area Convention Center that may help with that goal? A rooftop bar.

The bar was a new feature revealed on Friday as a part of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s National Tourism Week event, where bureau officials gave an overview of the area’s 2016 tourism statistics and provided an update on the hotel project.

Local officials such as Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, Palmetto City Commissioner Harold Smith and Manatee County commissioners Betsy Benac, Carol Whitmore, Stephen Jonsson and Charles Smith were present.

The 250 rooms that the Sheraton-branded hotel will bring will provide needed room stock to Bradenton. Elliott Falcione, the bureau’s executive director, announced that Manatee County saw a nearly 3 percent increase in visitors in 2016 compared to the previous year, according to data gathered by Tampa-based Research Data Services Inc.

It’s another seed to get this urban core where it needs to be in Palmetto and Bradenton.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione on the Bradenton Area Convention Center hotel

“There are times when we just kind of get covered over in people and there’s not enough rooms,” said Manatee County Tourist Development Council member Jack Rynerson, who also attended the presentation.

Groover Bryant nodded in agreement.

“I think it will also draw other hoteliers in the vicinity,” she said. “Because it’s like successful restaurants build next to other successful restaurants.”

Falcione also revealed that the Midwest had a particularly strong showing in 2016 as a feeder market. Indianapolis and Cleveland were new additions to the Bradenton area’s top 10 tourism feeder markets, according to the data, which also include the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando areas, New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The Bradenton area now has year-round brand awareness in Pittsburgh, Falcione said, instead of only during spring training for the Pirates.

$168.30 Average room rate in Manatee County in 2016

“It’s so good and strong that we are working with SRQ (Sarasota Bradenton International Airport) and we believe we are on the cusp of getting a nonstop flight during spring training and we believe it will become year-round,” Falcione said.

Pittsburgh is at the top of SRQ executives’ “wish lists,” said the airport’s Vice President and COO Mark Stuckey, but they won’t know if any airline will commit to a flight until June, at the earliest. Stuckey and SRQ President and CEO Fredrick “Rick” Piccolo will travel to Providence, Rhode Island, in June to meet with nine different airlines.

“We really push the Pittsburgh service hard, but we currently don’t have anyone that’s been willing to commit to that at this time,” Stuckey said.

The airport has a special incentives package for airlines if they fly to Pittsburgh or Baltimore, even just for spring training. The Orioles spend spring training in Sarasota.

Falcione mentioned the traffic issue that inevitably comes with increased visitation. Groover Bryant believes changes will need to be made to the road infrastructure surrounding the convention center hotel to accommodate the increased traffic on the Desoto Bridge, U.S. 41 and Seventh Street East, which will connect to the hotel when it opens, expected in November 2019.

“Long term that interchange has got to be improved and upgraded because it will increase the pressure put on that corridor and Seventh Street being right at the foot of it,” Groover Bryant said. “I think now it just will bring it more to the forefront and perhaps help us move it forward.”