West Texas Meetings 2002

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



by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Mention Texas and many attendees picture oil derricks, roads that stretch to the horizon, boundless plains, and rugged terrain. Although that view of the Lone State can’t be seen in many regions of the expansive state, it does accurately describe West Texas, a region that stretches from the Panhandle to the Mexican border.

Between those spacious boundaries lie an array of cities, each with its own assets to tempt meeting groups. From the big city offerings of El Paso to the smaller communities of Midland, Amarillo, and others, to the rugged wilderness of the Big Bend, West Texas offers groups a wide variety of options that range from culture to cowboy fun.


Best known for its oil industry, the city of Midland lies at the southern end of the Panhandle, accessible by four major highways as well as an international airport. The city has seen a growing demand for meeting sites. “The general state of the meetings industry in Midland is going strong and growing every month,” notes SuJo McKee, Sales Manager for the Midland CVB. “In regard to 9/11, our business was only mildly impacted. We believe that with our destination within easy access by several major highways, Midland is still a great place geographically and regionally. One factor that we in Midland love to mention is that we offer all the amenities and conveniences of a large city without the hustle and bustle. Regardless of where you are in Midland, you can reach any destination within 15 minutes.”

“As far as trends regarding meetings and conventions in Midland, we are steadily increasing. I think that in the past there may have been some up and downs as far as the number of meetings and conventions booked, but with a consistent sales/servicing team, that is no longer the case.”

Midland today also markets its affiliation with President George W. Bush, a former resident. “One of the things that has become popular is the connection to George W. Bush,” says McKee. “We have several tours that include Bush-related sites.” George W. Bush’s childhood home at 1412 West Ohio was recently purchased for use as a museum and is scheduled to open in mid-2003. About his former home, the President once said, “There’s so much optimism in Midland, such a passion for the possible. You see it everywhere in Midland and you see it throughout West Texas and I certainly saw it in the home where I was raised. It seems improbable now but that little house on Ohio Street, it really is the American story: Our country’s a place of limitless hopes and possibilities, and nowhere is that spirit more alive than in the great state of Texas.”

The city also offers a Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, which will open a transportation wing with race cars. Midland is also home to the American Airpower Heritage Museum with a hanger often used for banquets. Susie’s South Forty offers a West Texas saloon theme with a large area for receptions. Other popular group attractions include the Marion Blakemore Planetarium, one of the largest in Texas. When it’s time to get down to business, the Midland Center’s exhibit hall offers 12,500 square feet of column free exhibit space for 1,000 banquet style, up to 79 10-square-foot booths, or subdivided into three smaller rooms


Just a short drive from Midland, the companion city of Odessa shares Midland’s airport and often works with its neighbor to host large groups. Odessa ranks as the state’s 23rd largest city, with a population of 95,700.

Odessa also shares Midland’s presidential attractions; the city is home to the country’s only museum dedicated solely to the office of the US President. The Presidential Museum and Leadership Library is filled with exhibits on everything from campaigns to First Lady dolls. Group functions for up to 150 attendees can be arranged using the museum’s multifunction room, rotunda, and exhibit space. This fall, the museum relocated to the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin Campus. The museum also owns a former home of President George Bush and President George W. Bush; it will be moved to the museum grounds. The facility also owns a home in Midland that was George and Laura Bush’s first home after their marriage; the home operates as the Laura W. Bush Educational Center and is available for group functions.

Another frequently used venue is The Ellen Noel Art Museum of the Permian Basin, also located on the university campus. The museum is available for groups of 200 and includes art exhibits, and a sculpture garden.

The city is also home to Odessa College, which offers a meeting room for up to 200, an auditorium for 770 attendees, and several smaller facilities. At the college, groups can also visit The Globe of the Great Southwest, a recreation of the Globe Theatre; the theater hosts Shakespearean performances as well as country and western music revues. On the grounds stands a replica of the Anne Hathaway Cottage.

Odessa’s newest attraction is the Odessa Meteor Crater Museum, located just west of town. The $500,000 museum and visitors center tells the story of the Odessa meteor crater, formed 20,000 years ago, and ranks as the second largest crater in the nation.


In the far northern reaches of West Texas stands Wichita Falls, located just a few miles from the Oklahoma border. “Wichita Falls is the home to a unique events complex, sitting at the edge of the scenic Wichita River in downtown Wichita Falls,” notes Kacey Gray, director of for the Wichita Falls CVB. “The first phase of the events complex (Multi-Purpose Events Center or MPEC) was built in 1995 and is a state-of-the-art agricultural facility designed to host top shelf national ag events. This unique facility also functions as a venue for convention guests to enjoy real West Texas rodeo entertainment, while attending a convention virtually next door.”

The Convention Center offers over 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space including 12 meeting rooms, a 40,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a state-of-the-art lecture theater. Presently the convention center is undergoing an expansion, adding a 10,500-seat coliseum located less than 50 yards from the convention center; completion is scheduled for December 2002.

“We have seen a 25% increase in new hotel rooms in our market,” said Gray. “The majority of our existing properties have also recently renovated. Our headquarter hotels, the Holiday Inn & Suites and Radisson, have spent a combined $13 million in renovation over the last three years.”


The Panhandle city of Lubbock has become synonymous with Texas’s growing wine industry. Located south of Amarillo, this plains city offers groups several elegant wineries with tours and tastings.

Lubbock is also well known as the home of Texas Tech University, which provides the city not only with museums but also with meeting space. The outdoor National Ranching Heritage Center features historic ranch homes and outbuildings that have been moved to this site to depict the history of ranching and its importance on the Panhandle plains. Also on campus, the Moody Planetarium gives delegates the opportunity to see special planetarium programs. Planners find that family groups especially enjoy the Omnimax Theater and Science Spectrum Museum, filled with hands-on displays; groups of up to 180 persons can be accommodated. For a global atmosphere, the campus’s International Cultural Center offers meeting facilities which include a 200-seat auditorium and two conference rooms with over 2000 square feet of meeting space.

Lubbock’s most famous son was musician Buddy Holly who is honored at the Buddy Holly Center. This facility, which serves to educate the public about Texas music, features not only Holly but other West Texas musicians. The center includes a conference room for small groups of 12 attendees. The courtyard and reception area can hold 125 delegates.


“Our biggest strong point is our value. To hold a meeting in Amarillo, you get a lot for your money,” notes Eric Miller, spokesperson for the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council. “Our hotels and restaurants are lower priced and the general cost of living is lower.”

Miller explains, “In Amarillo we estimate delegates spending at $120 per day per delegate.  In the summer, our overnight traffic is very high since we’re halfway between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. Our occupancy rates have gone up a little this past year. Our boardings at the airport are down and we are getting more drive-through traffic. We’ve got a lot of demand on our meeting space from our local groups as well as conventions. We’ve needed additional space and a large ballroom. The ceilings on the exhibit space are much higher and there are no columns so it’s not just new space, it’s better space.”

The Amarillo Civic Center is undergoing a 60,000-square-foot , $11.4 million expansion scheduled for completion in mid-2003. The project will bring total meeting and exhibit space to nearly 340,000 square feet. The addition includes a new 24,500-square-foot, column-free North Exhibit Hall, a 20,700-square-foot ballroom available for 1,150 for a formal  dinner and over 2,000 theater style, and two catering kitchens. The new addition will also include a partially covered outdoor exhibit area and a covered patio available for informal sessions or meals. The project also includes the renovation of the existing South Exhibit Hall.

Amarillo is also home to several other meeting venues including the 5,000-seat Cal Farley Coliseum, which recently replaced all seating, the Grand  Plaza available for meetings up to  1,100 and banquets of 900, and the Civic  Auditorium with performance hall seating for over 2,300; the auditorium also recently installed new seating.


In the eastern boundaries of West Texas lies Abilene, a city located just 155 miles west of the DFW Metroplex. Abilene’s history is intricately linked with that of the railroad, a former hub for the Texas and Pacific Railway. In the 1880s, the city was promoted as “The Future Great City of West Texas,” Today the city is best known for its agriculture and oil industries.

The history of the region will be the focus of a new attraction opening in Spring 2004. Frontier Texas “is an entertaining and educational interactive museum depicting life from 1780 to 1880,” says Nanci Liles, executive director of the Abilene CVB. The expansive facility will include space for group functions and high-tech interactive theaters will allow visitors to experience life on the range with everything from hailstorms to tornados.

Like many of West Texas communities, the Abilene CVB continues to court area associations although ‘we are also marketing more heavily toward sports and cultural heritage tourism,” says Liles. The Abilene Civic Center offers a 2200-seat auditorium, 9,000-square-foot foyer that can accommodate 400 attendees banquet style, a 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a conference center divisible into four meeting rooms, and eight additional meeting rooms as well as a VIP room. The city is also home to the Taylor County Exposition Center, an equestrian facility that offers a 5,000 fixed seat coliseum, an 1800-seat horse barn, and a multi-purpose pavilion.


Groups looking for a chance to combine a visit to Mexico and Texas often turn to El Paso, the largest city on the US-Mexico border. “El Paso and Juarez make up the world’s largest border metroplex,” notes Stacey Osborne, Manager of Communications and Sales Development for the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have a lot of border business either from corporations with a plant in Mexico or ones that are just opening a maquiladores plant.” Groups that would like to visit Mexico for free time fun or evening activities find that transportation is very easy aboard trolleys that depart hourly from the convention center.

The Judson F. Williams Convention Center, part of the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center, recently underwent a $23 million renovation completed in May. The center, which shortly after hosted 6,000 participants in the Texas Democratic Convention, now offers 80,000 square feet of column-free space that can be divided into three halls and over 17,000 square feet of meeting space. Meeting rooms were renovated and future improvements are also in the plans, calling for the construction of a new trolley terminal and new parking garage accessible by a pedestrian bridge.

The expansion has helped the center reach record attendance levels. The El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center (EPC&PAC) recently recorded record growth with an increase in attendance of 12% at the end of the third fiscal quarter.

Two area museums recently announced plans to relocate downtown, moves that will make access much easier for groups. The El Paso Holocaust Museum and the El Paso History Museum will soon be within a two-block walk of the Insights Science Museum, City Hall, and the new El Paso Museum of Art, which features both Mexican and Southwest art. Other popular free time activities include a ride up the Wyler Aerial Tramway with views from atop the Franklin Mountains. Many groups also visit the city’s numerous historic sites including Mission Ysleta (the oldest mission in Texas), Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (a Tigua settlement, the oldest identifiable ethnic group in Texas), Socorro Mission (the oldest continuously active parish in the US.), and San Elizario Presidio (built on the famous Camino Real).

Active groups find plenty of year-around challenges in and around the city including golf at Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course, Emerald Springs Golf and Conference Center, and Sonoma Ranch Golf Course. Rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking in both the Franklin Mountains State Park and the nearby Hueco Tanks State Historical Park are popular choices as well.



*Ashmore Inn & Suites (800.692.1338) is under construction. The 128-room hotel will include meeting space for 200 people as well as an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, and complimentary breakfast and hospitality hour. The property is scheduled to open first quarter 2003.

*A Courtyard By Marriott (800.321.2211, www.courtyard.com) will soon be under construction in West Amarillo; the facility will offer 90 guest rooms. Construction is pending approval by the city.

Big Bend

*At Lajitas Resort (877.424.3525, www.lajitas.com), renovations are underway of all guest rooms and the resort facilities. Completion of the 72 guest rooms is scheduled for January with the remainder of the renovations completed by mid-2003. The resort includes 6500 square feet of meeting space, an 18 hole PGA championship golf course, spa, private airport with jet capability, equestrian center, and hunting lodge that accommodates up to 40 attendees banquet style.

El Paso

*Dallas-based Inn-vestors have purchased the International Hotel (800.351.6024) The 200-room hotel will reopen in February 2003 with 200 guest rooms in walking distance of the Convention Center.


*The Ramada Inn and Conference Center (806.745.2208, www.mylubbockhotels.com) underwent a $1.3 million renovation completed in July. The hotel offers 162 guest rooms, over 6,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, a new business center with high speed internet connections.

*In April, a three-story Extended StayAmerica Efficiency Studios hotel (800.EXT.STAY , www.extendedstay.com) opened with 92 guest rooms. Guest rooms include a queen-size bed, recliner, cable TV with remote, voice mail, free local calls, and a computer data port. Each room also has a kitchen with a refrigerator, two-burner range, microwave, coffee maker, utensils and tableware.


*In September, a 78-room Hampton Inn (800.HAMPTON, www.hamptoninn.com) hotel broke ground. The hotel will be located near the new Scharbauer Sports Complex, which will be completed in the spring. Construction of the new Hampton Inn hotel is scheduled for completion in mid-2003.


*The Fairfield Inn and Suites (915.363.1900) opened in December 2001. The hotel offers 67 guest rooms and 10 suites; the hotel includes a business center. Rooms include internet access.
*In July 2003, the Comfort Inn (915.528.3461) will open in Odessa. The 56-suite inn will offer high-speed internet connections in all guest rooms. The inn will also include a business center and indoor pool.

Comments are closed.