New development spurs meetings in Greater Dallas/Fort WorthFew cities in the United States are able to deliver a wide selection of hotels, top-tier convention facilities, efficient public transportation and unique attractions—all with a reasonable price tag. Affordability and accessibility go hand in hand in Greater Dallas/Fort Worth. But there’s an even bigger reason that planners are choosing to hold meetings in the region. More than 64 million travelers pass through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) each year, making it the fourth-busiest airport in the world. In the last decade, 22 international destinations and 12 other airlines have joined the airport, making DFW a global travel hub. But if one major airport isn’t enough, there’s also Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL). “Dallas is home to two major airports with more domestic nonstop flights than any other U.S. city,” says Frank J. Librio, vice president of communications for Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re just three hours from each coast, so doing business in Dallas is clearly a good business decision.” The presence of two airports has brought more than $37 billion annual economic impact in Greater Dallas/Fort Worth, which in turn is revving up meetings infrastructure. Progress on several new hotels, venue improvements and entertainment complexes is under way and set for completion in the next few years. It’s no wonder the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving and Plano tout their proximity to both airports, which are bringing droves of visitors to North Texas for business, meetings and a side of cowboy culture that can’t be found anywhere else.
Omni Dallas Hotel
DallasDallas Convention and Visitors Bureau’s motto is “big things happen here.” And it’s true. Dallas is home to world-class shopping, the largest urban arts district in the country, a cutting-edge culinary scene and one of the longest light rail systems in the United States. But Dallas is just getting started. More than $20 billion is being invested into new developments, a dozen hotels and restaurants. Dallas is one of the fastest-growing cities for business and leisure travelers—bringing more than 22 million visitors annually—and its rapid progress is not going unnoticed. Earlier this year, Dallas was named among the top 10 cities on Cvent’s 2015 list of the best meeting destinations in the United States. “One of Dallas’ best selling points is the city’s affordability. It’s a tier 1 city with an amazing price tag,” Librio says. “While many local businesses host their meetings in Dallas, many groups not based in Texas find Dallas a convenient location to travel to.” More to Come Construction is resurging north of downtown in Victory Park, the entertainment complex surrounding American Airlines Center. The $100 million redevelopment is bringing more than 10,500 sq. ft. of new restaurant and retail space to reinvigorate the area. Next door to Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Omni Dallas is introducing a 16,000-square-foot dining complex with four new restaurant concepts. Big things are also happening on the hotel front. Dallas’ newest hotel is The Westin Dallas Downtown, which opened last month with 326 guest rooms. The 33-story building offers more than 31,000 sq. ft. of event space, including a ballroom that overlooks the Trinity River. Hilton is taking over the historic Statler Hotel & Residences, which had been empty for more than a decade. Following a $175 million conversion, the property is slated to open this fall with 161 guest rooms and a 14,500-square-foot ballroom. By 2018, Dallas will have its own Virgin Hotel. Located in the Design District, the trendy lodging will offer 200 guest rooms, luxury suites, restaurants, a bar, meeting spaces and a rooftop terrace with a pool, gym and spa.
Fort WorthFor cities similar in size to Fort Worth, existing meetings infrastructure often is more than sufficient. But the status quo just doesn’t cut it for Cowtown. More than 6.5 million visitors descend on the city each year, making it one of the top tourist destinations in Texas. The popularity of area attractions such as Sundance Square and the Stockyards are driving a need for more hotels and larger meeting venues. “Plans are underway for $2 billion in investments, including a 14,000-seat multipurpose arena and $175 million in enhancements to our world-famous western district,” says John Cychol, vice president of meeting sales for Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This growth ensures Fort Worth will continue to be a leader in the market.” Bigger is Better To accommodate downtown growth, it was determined that Fort Worth requires more than 1,400 hotel rooms and a revamped convention center arena. Plans are in place to break ground on up to 300,000 sq. ft. of additional exhibit space through 2022. But a new 1,000-room convention center hotel could come as soon as January 2017. Fort Worth Convention Center already offers more than 250,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Will Rogers Memorial Center alone attracts more than 2 million visitors each year. The home of various livestock shows, including the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, it will also undergo extensive renovations. By December 2019, $450 million in updates will be completed at the multipurpose arena, which provides 94,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 14,000-seat arena and more than 2,500 horse stalls and 2,250 cattle ties. One of Fort Worth’s best outdoor venues is the result of several ongoing projects surrounding the Trinity River. Panther Island Pavilion is a 40-acre area and is the only waterfront stage in the state. Performances, festivals, boating events and bike races are regularly held at the venue, which also offers water sports, including kayaking and paddleboarding year-round. It is connected to 72 miles of trails within Gateway Park, one of the largest urban parks in the nation.
The Shops at Legacy, Plano
PlanoWhen Thursday night rolls around, rows of outdoor patios on Bishop Road become a lively scene. To say that the area is a local hotspot is putting it mildly, and it’s also proving to be popular with meeting attendees. “Plano’s eclectic shopping areas filled with unique boutiques and chic dining, music and entertainment locations give meeting attendees plenty to do,” says Millerann Moya, marketing manager for Visit Plano. After Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center opened in 2000, few anticipated the development that would mushroom around the hotel. The Shops at Legacy have grown into 2,600 acres of boutique retail stores and restaurants, condominiums and hotels. And there’s more to come. Visitors can look forward to even more dining, shopping and nightlife in Legacy West, a $2 billion project that will complete the other half of the complex. What’s become the biggest construction project in North Texas will offer an artisanal food hall, retail and office space, and a Renaissance Hotel opening early 2017 with 304 guest rooms and more than 100,000 sq. ft. of conference space. Business is Booming In the last few years, Plano has appeared on the radar of major multinational corporations that are choosing to base their headquarters alongside several existing Fortune 500 companies. Recently, Toyota and Liberty Mutual recently joined the roster, bringing even more jobs and people to the state. Plano is consistently noted as one of the fastest growing communities, boosting the county population by more than 59 percent in the last four years.
Irving Convention Center
IrvingNot many convention centers look like Irving Convention Center, with its geometric facade and industrial copper patina. The LEED Silver certified building was designed as two boxes stacked and rotated on top of each other to provide shaded outdoor areas and lots of natural light inside. “The building’s unique architecture, vertical design and interior finishes have created a new niche in the marketplace,” says Lori Sirmen, communications manager for Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau. Five years ago, Irving Convention Center took over the former grounds of Dallas Cowboys Stadium. While the old stadium is missed, the multilevel convention center has brought additional business to Greater Dallas. There is nearly 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, including column-free ballrooms, meeting rooms and ample prefunction space. By the end of 2017, business travelers will be able to stay next to the convention center—a 350-room Westin hotel with 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space will be connected via skybridge. Expanded Entertainment Across from the convention center, Music Factory is scheduled to open in spring 2017. The complex will offer an 8,000-seat Live Nation performance venue and a 50,000-square-foot outdoor plaza. Around 250,000 sq. ft. of entertainment, retail and restaurant space will include a comedy club, bowling alley, movie theater and night clubs. “This 40-acre district will provide a wide range of entertainment and dining options to fill open nights on the convention schedule, as well as an excellent venue for events,” Sirmen says.
DART Around TownDallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) covers all visitor travel needs, from airport transit to area attractions. Light rail and bus service connects downtown to 12 other cities in the Greater Dallas area. Take DART to museums, games, shows and more. Watch the NBA Dallas Mavericks play at American Airlines Center. Accessible via DART Rail Green Line and Orange Line and Trinity Railway Express to Victory Station. Through Feb. 21, the “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence” exhibit at Perot Museum dives deep into the light phenomenon. Accessible via DART Rail Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line or Orange Line to Akard Station. On the first and third Saturday of each month, The Arts District Stroll offers a 90-minute architectural tour of Dallas Arts District. Tours begin at Dallas Museum of Art. Accessible via DART Rail Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line or Orange Line to Pearl/Arts District Station. At Dallas Zoo, groups can experience special exhibits, animal encounters, group safari tours and more. Accessible via DART Rail Red Line to Dallas Zoo Station. Catch a headlining act at historic Majestic Theatre in the city’s historic entertainment center. This month, stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt and country musician Kacey Musgraves perform at the venue. Accessible via DART Rail Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line or Orange Line to St. Paul Station.
Fort Worth StockyardsThe last civilized stop on the Chisholm Trail is the Fort Worth Stockyards. The National Historic District was first established in 1849 as a trading outpost and processing plant for livestock. But earlier this year, it received an alarming designation on the Most Endangered Historic Places list by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Property owners and preservationists have discussed plans to redevelop the 98-acre area while preserving its historic attributes. In July, final details of the $175 million project were unveiled. Plans include more than 180,000 sq. ft. of new mixed-use areas and festival districts. The Marine Creek district will have additional restaurants and a hotel, and more dining and shopping outlets are proposed for the historic Mule Barns. The Swift-Armor meat packing plant could be converted into space for hotels and meeting venues. Around 20 new buildings could be added, and more green space is in the works. Groups can experience the stockyards in several cowboy-themed entertainment and shopping venues. At Maverick Fine Western Wear and Saloon, patrons can don premium western wear and enjoy a cold beer. Billy Bob’s Texas bills itself as the world’s largest honky-tonk and has hosted legendary country musicians, such as Willie Nelson. The stockyards is also the only place where traffic stops twice a day for the Fort Worth Herd, a cattle drive made up of 15 Texas Longhorns.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad