Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2013
Todays Convention Centers Are Perfect for Small Meetings Too
By: Solomon J. Herbert
There once was a time when convention centers were nothing more than huge boxes with concrete floors and cinder block walls that were used solely for mega trade shows and conventions. Nothing fancy, no creature comforts, just plenty of exhibit space, basic utilities and oversized loading docks. That was the industry standard. Meeting and trade show planners had a choice to either take it or leave it! History shows us that nearly all of them, except those that truly needed the cavernous expanses of an old school convention center, opted for the more appealing and hospitable environment of a hotel setting

That was then – this is now! Convention Centers have evolved into an entirely different animal, boasting everything from plush carpeting, textured wall coverings, multi-million dollar art installations and ergonomic boardroom seating, to award winning food and beverage departments, attentive concierge staff and 5-star hotel quality amenities. And while today’s convention centers still accommodate those huge gatherings that require room for hundreds of exhibit booths and thousands in a general session or meal function, now they can also host those smaller meetings and conferences that are seeking a more intimate and inviting environment.

Here are a few venue possibilities for planners to consider when organizing their next small event.

In the heart of thriving, fun-filled Birmingham is the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Here you will find everything you need for whatever your event requires: an array of top-notch facilities, 757 adjoining guest rooms, a helpful event staff and a host of specialized services. An impressive 220,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space is just the beginning. One of the most compelling features of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex is that it has all the right components in one complex.

The centrally located, modern facility also includes 100,000 sq. ft. in 74 meeting rooms, and The Medical Forum, a conference facility unlike any other in the country that's equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology.

The adjoining Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, with 757 modern guest rooms, in-house catering service as well as on-site covered and valet parking, complete the package. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is conveniently located 10 minutes from the Birmingham International Airport and at the apex of several major interstates, making it super-accessible by car, bus or plane.

Largest Ballroom: 15,522 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 74
Telephone: (205) THE-BJCC

History and spectacular landscapes come together in Charlottesville, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Celebrated landmarks, including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and the University of Virginia, are clustered here among swathes of the East Coast's most beautiful scenery.

This is the setting for Keswick Hall at Monticello, an impressive 48-room mansion nestled on 600 acres. The resort is also home to the prestigious Keswick Club. The estate could hardly be classified as a convention center, it is the perfect retreat, whether planning a small meeting, a corporate gathering or a team building exercise filled with relaxation, gracious hospitality and fresh country air.

Keswick Hall at Monticello boasts 7,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space. Each of the resort's event spaces offers windows and access to patios. Allow them to customize a memorable experience for your group, whether a private dinner around their beautiful infinity-edge pool, an evening meeting over cognac in the Snooker Room, a breakout session in the intimate Virginia Library, cocktails on the 12th Tee Box, private team building exercises at the Keswick Pavilion or a Board meeting on the croquet lawn.

Largest Ballroom: 2,700+ sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 9
Telephone: (866) 375-9356

The Cleveland Convention Center is a multipurpose performing arts, entertainment and exposition facility located in the heart of downtown Cleveland. It is easy walking distance to numerous restaurants, retail outlets, attractions and the shores of Lake Erie. The exhibition space holds over 1,500 exhibits. The performing arts area of the Convention Center was constructed in the grand opera tradition and features a spacious 21,780 square foot registration lobby, a 10,000 seat auditorium, the 3,000 seat Cleveland Music Hall and 600 seat Little Theater.

Coming soon is the long awaited Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center, adding to the city’s growing prowess as a prime meeting destination. When the facility opens in 2013, the content of the Mart will reflect the technology drivers impacting current trends in healthcare such as access, cost reduction and improved outcomes. Located in downtown Cleveland, Cleveland MMCC will feature a four-story, 235,000-sq. ft. Medical Mart facility, which will display some of the most recent technology available in today’s healthcare market, and an adjoining convention center with 230,000 sq. ft. of Class-A exhibit space. The facility will also include more than 90,000 sq. ft. dedicated to meeting rooms that can accommodate as few as 28 to as may as 440 classroom-style, and a spacious Grand Ballroom featuring a spectacular view overlooking Lake Erie.

Largest Ballroom: 32,000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 37
Telephone: (216) 348-2211

The Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) is Georgia’s newest and second largest convention center. Located adjacent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and just 10 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the GICC offers 400,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space to accommodate every need. The 150,000-sq. ft. Exhibit Hall is divisible into four separate halls and can fit over 800 10’x10’ booths. Best of all, the GICC boasts Georgia’s largest ballroom — 40,000 sq. ft. — with room enough to seat over 3,000 guests.

In Fall 2009, the GICC became one of the first facilities in the country where event and convention goers were able to fly into an airport, disembark their plane and arrive at the front door of the facility, all without ever getting in a taxi, bus or shuttle. The ATL SkyTrain, a new light rail train project, transports travelers from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the airport’s new Consolidated Rental Car Agency Complex (CONRAC). The 1.4 million sq. ft. CONRAC is the centralized car rental headquarters for Hartsfield-Jackson. The great news for GICC patrons is that the second station of the APM is at the front door of the GICC, making it even easier to access the impressive facility.

Everything about the facility is both beautiful and state of the art. Whether dining on a 4-star meal prepared by the GICC’s world-class culinary team or touring the GICC’s $1 million+ art collection, the GICC offers only the best to its clients.

Largest Ballroom: 40, 000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 35
Telephone: (770) 997-3566

The location of the Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center is irresistible. This Florida convention center is nestled on the Intracoastal Waterway, and surrounded by all that South Florida has to offer. Their conference facilities staff is there to make your next event a success! The Fort Lauderdale Convention Center will help you through each step, from event booking and planning to exhibitor setup, ensuring a great conference, trade show, company meeting or event.

The high-tech 600,000-sq. ft. three level meeting and exhibit conference facilities feature state-of-the-art technological services, including teleconference facilities, high speed wireless internet access, digital phone lines and business grade telephonic services. Our conference venue technical service team is able to provide you with the latest in technology to ensure your conference or event runs as smoothly as possible. Our convention center is waiting for your event.

The centerpiece of the center is a three-level glass atrium with a skylight that provides abundant natural light and looks out on a 1.3 acre fountain plaza. Their flexible space consists of four exhibit halls, 2 ballrooms and 31 meeting rooms that can be configured in a variety of ways to meet the needs of any group.

The award-winning food and beverage service at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center is second to none. The extensive menu gives you a variety of choices, whether you’re looking for a box lunch, a buffet, a coffee break, an elegant catered banquet or anything in between. If you don’t find something to your liking, they will custom design a menu for you and your group.

Largest Ballroom: 31,932 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 31
Telephone: (954) 765-5900

Opened in 2009, the Jackson Convention Complex is a convention, trade show and multi-purpose event facility owned by the Capitol City Convention Center Commission and operated by SMG, the world leader in venue management, marketing and development. The Complex’s primary objective is to promote and facilitate events and activities that generate economic benefits to the City of Jackson and Hinds County.

A LEED® Certified facility, the Complex features 330,000 sq. ft. of flexible exhibit, ballroom and meeting space and is located in the heart of downtown Jackson … Mississippi’s capital city and the heart of Southern hospitality. The facility boasts a 25,000 sq. ft. ballroom that can be subdivided into five separate areas for smaller events, and 25 meeting rooms, that can break out into as many as 30 meeting spaces This beautiful facility also offers first-rate amenities, state of the art technologies, resort quality service, and in-house catering services provided by SAVOR…Jackson.

In addition to the multitude of warm, friendly people in Jackson, you’ll find that the City With Soul has a lot to see, experience and enjoy, too. From incredible dining, world-class accommodations, and captivating museums, to great sports events, fun family attractions, and one-of-a-kind blues, literary, history and heritage tours, all within striking distance of the Convention Center Complex.

Largest Ballroom: 25,000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 30
Telephone: (855) 960-6338

The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, offering more than 400,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space and located in the heart of downtown, hosts over 700 event days and attracts more than 2 million visitors annually for conventions, trade shows, concerts, theater, and sporting events.

This SMG-managed, state-of-the-art facility includes three dynamic, multi-purpose Exhibition Halls as well as unique entertainment venues at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center which includes the Terrace and Center Theaters, and the Long Beach Arena. The Terrace Theater is a full-production 3,051-seat theater featuring world-class concert performances and Broadway shows, while the Center Theater, (825 capacity), provides a more intimate setting.

With 34 Meeting Rooms and a Grand Ballroom, Junior Ballroom, three dynamic Exhibition Halls, Long Beach Arena and the Terrace Theater, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is ideal for all types of special events, conventions and tradeshows, and is within walking distance to everything. Some Meeting Rooms have assisted listening devices for the hearing-impaired.

Largest Ballroom: 20,456 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 34
Telephone: (562) 436-3636

Looking for a fresh, spacious place to host your next convention, conference or meeting? Look no further than the Mississippi Coast Convention Center, the premiere destination for exhibitors, meeting planners and beyond. their 400,00-sq. ft., first-class facility offers all the modern amenities meeting planners desire, and they’re ideally located on the beach in one of the fastest-growing resort destinations in the nation!

The Mississippi Coast Coliseum is the largest beachfront facility of its kind in the South and continues to be the crowd favorite for sports and live entertainment, drawing year-round attendees locally, as well as from New Orleans, LA, Mobile, AL and Jackson, MS. Since its opening, it has played host to Broadway theatre, comedians, superstar entertainers, professional sports, rodeos, festivals, circuses and ice shows.

While the facility is able to house larger conventions and trade shows, it is also uniquely equipped to handle smaller, more intimate meetings, conferences and training sessions. A number of meeting rooms adjacent to the exhibit halls are perfect for groups ranging in size from 100-140 theater-style.

Largest Ballroom: 40,260 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 39
Telephone: (800) 726-2781

The first of its kind in the English speaking Caribbean and second in the region, Jamaica now boasts an additional state-of-the-art centre for meetings and events, the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The Centre is located in the heart of Jamaica’s second capital, Montego Bay, and is only a 15-minute drive from the Sangster International Airport. It is also centrally located near Montego Bay's world class resorts such as the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon, Hilton Rose Hall and Iberostar Resort. A variety of amenities and attractions are just a short distance from the Centre, providing visitors with the true Jamaican experience. Shopping, golf, spas and attractions are all within a 5-minute drive of the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

The facility’s exhibition space, which measures 52,213 sq. ft., is divisible into two halls, accommodating 4,000 persons theater-style. Function space can be configured into nine meeting rooms, the largest of which can comfortably handle up to 700 persons, while a 20,925-sq. ft. banquet hall, which can be divided into three sections, boasts a total capacity of 2,000 attendees.

Largest Ballroom: 20,925 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 9
Telephone: (876) 622-9330

The Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) is one of the most distinctive and easily accessible meeting facilities in the world, combining historic preservation, architectural innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Five years in the making, the PCCA recently underwent a $786 million expansion across 20 acres of central Philadelphia real estate, bringing the facility up to a staggering 2.3 million sq. ft. It's the largest single public works project in Pennsylvania history.

With over one million sq. ft. of sellable space, the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center features 528,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, seven exhibit halls totaling 679,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 32,000-sq. ft. ballroom and a new 55,400-sq. ft. ballroom — the largest on the East Coast and able to accommodate up to 6,000 delegates at one time, a 34,960-sq. ft. Grand Hall, an additional multi-story, floor-to-ceiling glass entrance on North Broad Street, and 79 total meeting rooms.

Despite the new expansion — the size of two full city blocks — with PCC having increased its size by nearly 60 percent, the facility remains the perfect venue for small meetings and gatherings that work best in a more intimate setting. Additional features include certification as an environmentally-friendly LEED building, and 3,936 hotel rooms within a four-minute walk from the Center.

Located at the heart of the city, both geographically and culturally, the PCC is within close proximity to famed landmarks, including Independence Hall and America’s most historic square mile, Chinatown and the Stunning Friendship Gate, and lovely Rittenhouse Square. And it sits right above the Reading Terminal Market, which offers a vast choice of mouthwatering regional and international food.

Largest Ballroom: 55,400 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 79
Telephone: (800) 428-9000

Virginia Beach is a meeting locale that rivals any on the East Coast. With more hotels, entertainment, shopping and dining options than ever, it’s the ideal place to bring people together year-round. You’ll find the perfect balance of coastal charm and big-city amenities. There’s a Virginia Beach vibe that’s right for your event. At the center of it all is the Virginia Beach Convention Center, the Nation's first convention center to earn LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It can hold any size meeting imaginable, with over 525,125 gross sq. ft., over 150,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space, nearly 29,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, over 31,000 sq. ft. ballroom (one of the largest on the east coast), 22 contiguous loading docks located on-grade adjacent to the exhibit hall and ballroom, and 2,209 free parking spaces.

The center features four 37,503-sq. ft. exhibit halls that can be used separately or in any combination up to 150,012 sq. ft.. Combined the hall can house 880 10’x10’ booths, or seat 9,400 for banquets. The facility’s 31,029-sq. ft. ballroom is divisible into three different areas, the largest of which is 10,472 sq. ft., able to accommodate 580 for banquets and 600 classroom-style.

A 360-ft. Video Wall along pre-function space creates an energetic entry experience and unrivaled opportunity to communicate with attendees, while a Concierge and Business Center are open daily to provide retail needs and services to facility guests.

Largest Ballroom: 31,029 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 26
Telephone: (757) 385-2161

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, an extraordinary 2.3 million-sq. ft. conventions and meetings facility, is equipped to handle events of all sizes, from small groups and break-out meetings to events for 500 to 42,000 attendees. One of the most energy-efficient buildings for its size, the Convention Center includes a range of mixed-use exhibit spaces, 198,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space with a total of 77 breakout rooms and a 52,000-sq. ft. ballroom, the largest in the region. Whatever the size of the event, the service of the Convention Center staff is unparalleled.

Centerplate/NBSE is the premier catering partner for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. From intimate private meetings to grand events with extensive guest lists, your event will benefit from professional talent, innovative approach, exceptional agility and unparalleled results.

Meeting participants and planners alike will be pleased to hear that they can find a plethora of attractions and points of interest nearby, everything from celebrity chefs and world-famous monuments, to museums, shopping and more.

Largest Ballroom: 52,000 sq. ft.
Number of Meeting Rooms: 77
Telephone: (202) 249-3000

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