West Texas Meetings 2007

July 8, 2011 by Paris and John  
Filed under Sample Articles


by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Recall the Texas of the big screen and you just might picture West Texas. Miles of rugged plains. Oil derricks on the horizon. Tumblin’ tumbleweeds rolling across a quiet highway.

But there’s another side to West Texas as well, one that includes museums, cultural events, an international atmosphere, and world-class facilities. Thanks in part to the money the oil business has brought this part of the state, many of these West Texas towns offer groups high-tech meeting facilities as well as off-site venues sure to please even the pickiest city slicker.


On the eastern edge of West Texas stands Abilene. “Our convention market is primarily within the state,” says Nanci Liles, executive director of the Abilene CVB. “We’re very economical and centrally located with 10 million people within a 3 1/2-hour drive.” The director reports about 180 meetings planned for this year.

History and culture join together in Abilene. “We have preserved most of our downtown facilities where groups can meet or have an evening function,” explains Liles. Venues such as the 1930s Paramount Theatre set the stage for group functions in Abilene. The restored facility be rented for meetings, seminars, dinners, and special events. The Spanish/Moorish theater, complete with hand-blown glass chandeliers, two grand staircases, and twin-domed turrets, has a capacity of 1,200 attendees. Another historic venue is The Grace Museum, a former hotel which now houses three facilities: an historic museum, a children’s museum, and an art museum.

Recently Abilene added Frontier Texas, a high-tech multimedia entertainment venue. Up to 50 attendees can participate in the multimedia experience at a time, an exhibit which takes visitors back to Abilene of 1780-1800. A large parade ground accommodates approximately 400 attendees.

Frontier Texas is one of several historic venues the CVB has arranged for meeting groups and spouse tours. “Our main focus is the cultural and heritage aspect of Abilene: bootmakers, saddlemakers, and other artisans,” says Liles. “We also have several silos in a 20-minute radius. One can accommodate group tours. We’ve had group dinners there, and it’s very interesting since everything’s underground.” Liles also reports that visits to the many pottery studios in town have been popular with attendees.

When it’s time to sit down and meet, the city offers two venues: The Abilene Civic Center with a 2200-seat auditorium along with a 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a conference center, and the Taylor County Exposition Center, an equestrian facility with a 5,000 fixed seat coliseum and a multi-purpose pavilion.


On the northern boundaries of West Texas lies Wichita Falls, just minutes from the Oklahoma border. Thanks to a coliseum added in January 2003, an addition to the existing MPEC or Multi-Purpose Events Center, the Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that “the meetings business is doing really well.” According to spokesperson Nancy Todd, “we just won a 4,000-delegate convention for 2006. The economy here is fantastic and the growth is unreal. Downtown is really being revitalized and is coming alive. We’re expecting great things in the coming years thanks to all of our projects.”

The largest project has been the expansion the convention center, which includes a 10,500-seat coliseum, exhibit areas, 12 meeting rooms, and a lecture hall as well as the J.S. Bridwell Agricultural Center, used for rodeos and special events. “We are really pushing our convention center which started construction in 1996,” says Todd. “All of our convention hotels are within a five-minute drive or less. Affordability is a big thing when we do bids. Most of the hotels are new or renovated within the past five years. Also, our convention center is one of the few in Texas where everything is on a common ground.”

Off-site venues echo Wichita Falls’s boomtown roots. “With our convention groups, we do an Oil Barons’ Tour, and we go to the Oil Barons’ Row to see some of the houses built with the oil money. We also have good antiques shops and museums,” says Todd. This summer, the city is opening Castaway Cove, a waterpark which will be available for group use as well. The city’s Wichita Theater, recently refurbished, also offers high-quality entertainment.


No where in West Texas is the move toward culture more evident than in Amarillo, which this April broke ground on a new $27 million performing arts center scheduled for completion in fall 2005. “The entire city of Amarillo is looking forward to next year’s opening of the new Globe News Performing Arts Center,” explains Eric Miller, spokesperson for the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council. “It will be a great venue for performances of all types. It will also fill a needed role in arts education for the entire Texas Panhandle. Of course, it will be a great location for special events, meetings and conventions. The lure of a top-flight performance arts venue will undoubtedly help the city of Amarillo attract groups of all kinds- either arts lovers looking for an exciting new experience or a meeting group looking for world-class facilities at value prices.”

The Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts will include a 1,300-seat auditorium with an elegant 30-foot-high glass lobby, grand staircase, and a state-of-the-art performance hall. Plans are underway to make the center the cultural hub for the vast region between Dallas and Denver. The facility will become the home of the Amarillo Symphony, Amarillo Opera and Lone Star Ballet.

“In addition to the new Globe-News Performing Arts Center, the Amarillo Museum of Art just completed a major renovation in its galleries and offices,” says Miller. “Also, the Don Harrington Discovery Center and Space Theater has major plans on the drawing board for renovation and expansion.”

Miller reports that several other assets are already drawing many groups to this Panhandle city. “Location, along Interstate 40, one of the nation’s main east-west highways, as well as the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport make Amarillo very accessible,” notes Miller. “The newly expanded Amarillo Civic Center is now at 340,000 square feet; it is one of the finest facilities in a city our size both in the Southwest and across the nation. Amarillo has a lot of new hotel/motel rooms completed or under construction. These new rooms are heavily oriented to suite properties. The new inventory will make Amarillo’s hotel/motel community more competitive to other cities.”


Stars–from musical performers to stellar bodies–join fine wines to draw groups to the Panhandle city of Lubbock. This community was the home of musician Buddy Holly and today remembers the late performer at along Buddy Holly Avenue and at the Buddy Holly Center, located in the former Ft. Worth and Denver Train Depot. The historic building is available for group use and includes the Buddy Holly Gallery, with a permanent exhibit on the Lubbock resident’s career, the Fine Arts Gallery, filled with contemporary art, and the Texas Musicians Hall of Fame, with changing exhibits on the music history of the Lone Star State, especially West Texas. Groups of up to 415 may be booked indoors; a courtyard can also be booked for a capacity of 250.

The Buddy Holly Center is often just a part of a full evening’s worth of entertainment planned for groups in downtown Lubbock. “The Center is in the Depot District, filled with small bars and restaurants. We always suggest an event at the Buddy Holly Center then for groups to go to the Cactus Theater for shows,” points out Gena Godinez, director of sales for the Lubbock CVB. “They do Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies revues, and it’s always a huge hit. After the show, attendees can stay in the Depot District and visit all the nightspots.”

Or, if your attendees are looking for stars of another type, the Science Spectrum and OMNI Theater focuses on science, especially space travel. Air travel of a nearer sort draws many groups to one of the city’s newest attractions, the Silent Wings Museum, located at the airport. “The Silent Wings Museum is dedicated to the men who flew in the glider program in World War II,” notes Godinez. “It’s located in the old terminal building, and they’ve done an excellent job with it and made it very high tech. It tells the history of the glider program which is fairly unknown.”

Today’s air arrivals find easy connection to the city through Southwest, American, Continental, and Delta airlines. In fact, Godinez cites “the ease of transportation to the city, with the airport less than 10 minutes from downtown” as one of the city’s top selling points to meeting planners. “Also, the facilities are very centralized and very affordable.” Meeting planners also find that the city is home to the 300,000-square-foot Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.


The neighboring West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa maintain a friendly competition for groups, each offering its own assets.

The airport is located in the city of Midland, best known as the boyhood home of President George W. Bush. Midland also is home to a number of cultural venues, all smack dab in the middle of some of Texas’s richest oil country. The city is home to several unique venues such as the Yucca Theatre, an Assyrian-style facility built in 1929; the restored theater sports black marble columns, a sandstone exterior, and interior touches that include gilded lions and scrollwork. The theater is home of The Summer Mummers, the country’s oldest existing troupe specializing in melodrama and comedy; groups can catch a performance from early June through Labor Day. Another theatrical venue option is the $3 million Cole Theatre, home of the Midland Community Theatre, which is frequently ranked among the nation’s top ten amateur theater groups.

Planners seeking entertainment at evening functions also find other types of performing arts in Midland, including West Texas’s largest orchestra, The Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale. The city is also home of the Midland Festival Ballet.

The fine arts are a growing passion in Midland as well; projects through the Arts Assembly of Midland can be arranged for groups as well. Art museums and galleries include the Folger Galleries, a fine arts gallery which also includes a notable collection of Celtic crosses; Gallery 1114, an artists’ cooperative; and McCormick Art Gallery, located in the Allison Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus of Midland College.

When it’s time to get down to business, groups can opt for the 18,000 square feet at the Midland Convention Center, located adjacent to the Centennial Plaza, which offers amphitheater seating for up to 300 attendees. The convention center is also located across from the Hilton Midland and Towers (432.683.6131, www.hilton.com), which offers over 10,000 square feet for group use. Over 25,000 square feet of meeting space is located at the Holiday Inn Country Villa and Convention Center (432.697.3181, www.holiday-inn.com), located between the Midland International Airport and downtown.

In the minds of many Texans, Midland is often paired with the nearby city of Odessa, home to some of the region’s most unique attractions. How about Shakespeare in West Texas? The works of the bard are played out at the 400-seat The Globe of the Great Southwest,(a replica of England’s Globe Theatre), located at Odessa College. To top off the experience, attendees can also visit a replica of the Anne Hathaway Cottage, which can be reserved for groups of 50; the facility includes an upstairs kitchen.

Odessa has exposition facilities but “we currently use our Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites as our convention center,” explains Molly Thorn, State Association Sales Specialist for the Odessa Texas Convention & Visitors Bureau. Presently undergoing renovation of its meeting space scheduled for completion in October, the 245-room Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites (432.362.2311, www.holiday-inn.com) offers 20,000 square feet of meeting facilities. “We also have the Ector County Coliseum for larger venues. This facility is owned and operated by Ector County and is used for major events such as rodeos, concerts, fairs and tradeshows.”


In far western Texas lies El Paso, both the world’s largest border city and West Texas’s largest destination. Nestled alongside Juárez, Mexico and surrounded by the Franklin Mountains, the bustling city stands in stark contrast to the smaller communities of the plains. Business ties on both sides of the border make the city a multicultural destination for meeting groups.

“Because of our border geography, we focus on Texas state associations and the multicultural and educational market,” says Terrie Todd, director of sales for the El Paso CVB. “Business has been very steady. Convention activity and interest is on the rise, and El Paso boasts the second highest hotel occupancy in the state.”

One reason for increased interest in the city was the 2002 renovation and expansion of the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center, a $23 million project. The facility offers over 200,000 square feet of function space including 80,000 square feet of column-free meeting space and a 2,500-seat theater. “With our expanded convention center, we are able to accommodate larger meetings. Now we target the larger state associations,” says Todd.

Downtown, the Camino Real (915.534.3000, www.caminoreal.com), built in 1912, serves as the convention hotel. Boasting a Tiffany glass dome, the 359-room hotel offers 19 meeting rooms for up to 1300 attendees. Although the city offers only one full-service and one limited-service hotel within walking distance of the convention center, “El Paso is unique because our airport properties are only 10 minutes from our downtown convention center,” notes Todd. “Planners can house groups at the airport hotels and then have their meetings at the convention center.”

For off-site functions, groups find numerous cultural opportunities. Groups with an interest in history can tour the area’s historic missions including Ysleta Mission, founded in 1682 and considered the oldest continuously used church in the country. Socorro Mission, with its three-foot thick adobe walls, and San Elizario Mission, a former Spanish military fort, are also often stops on group tours.

The arts are also especially strong in El Paso; the city is home to the El Paso Opera, El Paso Symphony Orchestro, El Paso Pro Musica, and museums such as the El Paso Museum of Art, whose permanent collection features artwork ranging from Mexican colonial art and retalbos to European art from the 13th to 18th centuries. Outside the city limits, McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater and Pavilion is host to Viva! El Paso, which showcases four centuries of city history in the format of an outdoor drama.

And many groups opt to expand their look at the region after an El Paso meeting, whether that means an evening in Juárez or several days in in the area. “The biggest draw for El Paso is the border and affordability,” points out Todd. “Groups are able to spend less and get more from their experience. A lot of meetings like to set aside a couple of days before or after to tour Old Mexico, New Mexico, and West Texas.”



The 120-room Ashmore Inn & Suites opened in June 2003. The hotel includes meeting space for 200 people as well as an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, and complimentary breakfast and hospitality hour. 800.692.1338.

The Courtyard by Marriott opened January 2004 with 89 rooms and three suites on I-40. The property includes high-speed internet access, a work desk with two phones, restaurant, pool, business center, and a meeting room for up to 50 attendees. 806.467.8954, www.marriott.com.

The 92-room Homewood Suites by Hilton opened April 2004 on I-40. The hotel includes a business center, complimentary high-speed internet access, complimentary hot breakfast buffet, and over 2,700 square feet of meeting space. 806.355.2222, www.hilton.com.


The 56-suite Comfort Suites opened in July 2003; each suite includes coffee maker, refrigerator, queen-size mattress, queen size sleeper sofa, and more; a continental breakfast is provided daily. The property includes a 1,700-square-foot meeting room for up to 50 attendees as well as a business center, swimming pool and hot tub, and exercise room. 432.362.1500, www.choicehotels.com.

The 51-room, 10-suite Hampton Inn opened in March 2004. Guests receive complimentary continental breakfast and amenities include a swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, business center, and a meeting room for up to 50 attendees. 432.363.2900, www.hamptoninn.com.

The Best Western Garden Oasis is undergoing a renovation of its lobby and its restaurant, changing it to a steakhouse, all scheduled for completion on June 1. The hotel includes 116 guest rooms and two suites as well as over 5,000 square feet of meeting space. 432.337.3006, 877.574.9231, www.bestwestern.com/gardenoasis.

The 209-room, 36-suite Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites is undergoing purchase by the owner of the city’s MCM Elegante. Upon purchase, the hotel is scheduled to renovate the nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting space, followed by a renovation of the hotel’s rooms and suites. 432.362.2311, www.holiday-inn.com.


Abilene CVB
325.676.2556, 800.727.7704

Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council
806.692.1338, 800.692.1338

El Paso CVB
915.534.0601, 800.351.6024

Lubbock CVB
806.747.5232, 800.692.4035

Midland Convention and Visitors Bureau
432.683.3381, 800.624.6435

Odessa Convention & Visitors Bureau
432.333.7871, 800.780.4678

Wichita Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau

West Texas Wines

Texas has galloped ahead in the wine world, quickly moving into fifth place for overall production throughout the country. With over 50 wineries across the state, groups will find many of the Lone Star State’s finest and largest wineries right in West Texas, facilities which not only offering tastings and tours but also excellent off-site venues for elegant evenings.

Most are located on a plain Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado named the Llano Estacado, the flatlands surrounding Lubbock which offer good growing conditions and soil. With an elevation of 3,400 feet, a semiarid climate, and an annual rainfall of about 18 inches, the area has proven to be ideal for this crop. Lubbock area grapes are shipped to wineries throughout Texas. And their home product has won numerous international awards and been served at state dinners to President Bush, Mikael Gorbechov, and Queen Elizabeth. Here’s a look at some of the region’s most notable wineries:

Llano Estacado, Lubbock. Named for that famous plain, this winery is one of the state’s most celebrated. Founded in 1976, today the winery is the state’s largest producer of premium wines, ones sold throughout the United States and in many European countries. This award-winning winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Johannisberg Reisling, Llano Blush, and other varieties. After a tour of the winery operations, groups enjoy a tasting of these fine wines. Tours are offered daily. The winery can also host receptions for up to 50 attendees in the tasting room or up to 200 in the wine cellar. Outdoor functions are also available. 806.745.2258, www.llanowine.com.

Ste. Genevieve, Fort Stockton. Ste. Genevieve is one of the state’s largest producers; although tours at the winery are no longer available, the city is opening a new tasting room located in the historic Gray Mule Saloon downtown. Scheduled to open in mid-summer, the facility will include a tasting room, visitors center, and art gallery and can accommodate up to 25 attendees indoors or as many as 200 delegates outside. For information, contact the city tourism director at 432.336.8525 ext. 16.

Pheasant Ridge, Lubbock. Located on the north side of Lubbock amidst 50 acres of vineyards, this family-owned winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, and other wines made from hand-picked grapes. The winery offers tastings and tours Friday through Sunday as well as private space for functions up to 100 persons. 806.746.6033, www.pheasantridgewinery.com.

Cap*Rock, Lubbock. An Old World charm envelopes this winery, one of the state’s most beautiful. The Southwestern mission-style architecture is accompanied by 14-foot ceilings and an elegant interior spanning over 23,000 square feet. Receptions for up to 350 attendees or dinner for up to 160 people can be hosted here as well as private meetings. 806.863.2704, www.caprockwinery.com.

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