You know that feeling when the weather cooperates so well with your plans, that it’s almost as if it were special-ordered for the occasion? That wasn’t what happened last Friday in Long Beach, when the city debuted its “dancing waters” fountain show at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s newly renovated Terrace Theater Plaza with a celebration featuring food trucks, aerialists, and loads of dignitaries and guests.
It was unseasonably chilly and windy enough that event organizers had to scratch the white cabanas they had planned to erect on the terrace amid a thicket of heat lamps and comfy groupings of sofas and armchairs. When it began to to rain just as Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia officially launched the light-and-color-drenched fountain show, it seemed as if as much water was coming down as was going up.
Still, it was a blast. Laughter rippled through the crowd, and umbrellas popped open like mushrooms as guests danced to Van Halen’s Jump! along with the fountains. Just as adversity can reveal character, the less-than-perfect weather underscored one of the things that makes Long Beach such an appealing destination: its vibrant and engaged local community.
For meeting organizers, the opening of the new fountains on the Terrace Plaza, newly connected with the Rainbow Bridge, offers another innovative “turnkey” venue. The fountains feature dozens of nozzles for creating intricate water effects, along with hundreds of LEDs and floodlights, and can be set to perform to a music broadcast from a surround-sound system, which, along with hundreds of theatrical lights, are mounted on eight permanent trusses.
Event organizers customize the music, colors, and style of the dancing water show for their groups, and also can make use of the center’s “library” of furnishings, heat lamps, decorative trees, and more, paying only for the labor to move various elements in and out of the space but no rental fees, saving tens of thousands of dollars in setup costs. The Terrace Theater Plaza joins a long list of other innovative turnkey spaces at the center, including the Cove, also an outdoor space, which opened last summer, and the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Arena.
Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, kept his remarks short, in deference to the damp weather. But during a tour last summer when the project was still underway, Goodling explained how the renovated fountains would not only create a new event venue, but also would serve the local community, functioning a sort of downtown living room for the waterfront city. Light shows will run nightly for visitors and residents alike, and for special community events.
The next day, I made a long and leisurely loop soaking in the friendly and artistic vibe downtown, where a wave of development, including the restoration of Art-Deco-era architectural treasures and new construction, are renewing the city. In addition to hotel projects, such as the restoration of the vintage Breakers Hotel, where Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned with hotel scion Nicky Hilton, developers are adding thousands of new residential units.
In 2017, Thrillist put Long Beach — along with New York City, San Francisco, and Portland — on its short list of the nation’s most walkable cities, noting not only its interesting retail shops and myriad of new restaurants, but the massive influx of people to its bustling downtown.
Now that’s something to dance about.