by Linda Hayes | June 01, 2014
Grand canyons, desert vistas, snowcapped peaks and a vibrantcity culture are abundant in the state of Utah. Association meeting planners are sure to find the perfect space for their events, including more than a few truly memorable and unique sites.

Agendas may include trips to the state’s five national parks, two national recreation areas and six national forests. And with LEED-certified conference centers, forward-thinking convention and visitors bureaus and hotels located in dynamic settings, groups will immediately feel like they’ve come to the right place to get things done.

Salt Lake City & Northern Utah: Hospitality Hubs

With a small-town feel, big-city sensibilities and dramatic natural wonders like the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Range, Salt Lake City offers remarkable opportunities for associations. Getting there couldn’t be easier: Salt Lake City International Airport is accessed by nonstop flights from 92 cities, and for half the U.S. population, it’s just a 2.5-hour flight. And the successful bike-share program, GREENbike, has more than a dozen stations around town and at the Salt Palace Convention Center, making it a mobile and inexpensive way to see the sights and get some exercise post-meeting.

More than 7,500 hotel rooms are available in the city’s convention district, home to the silver LEED-certified Salt Palace Convention Center and its more than 679,000 square feet of space. Adjacent to the convention center, the Shilo Inn is undergoing a $10 million revamp under new ownership and is expected to be reflagged this fall as a Holiday Inn. The Grand America Hotel recently completed renovations to some of its guest rooms and public spaces. Two new downtown hotels, a 159-room Hyatt House and a 175-room Courtyard by Marriott, are under construction. And southeast of downtown, in Holladay, is the new Hyatt Place/Salt Lake City–Cottonwood.

Major meeting venues include the 22,000-seat EnergySolutions Arena, which offers 56,000 square feet of flexible meeting space; the renovated Gallivan Center, which can host events of up to 10,000; and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, with space for up to 500. At the University of Utah, the gold LEED-certified Natural History Museum of Utah offers event space for up to 1,000. And for smaller groups, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art can accommodate up to 150 guests.

In their free time, attendees might be interested in checking out downtown’s two-year-old City Creek Center, a 700,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment area with more than 80 stores and restaurants. Other entertaining options include the 2,768-seat Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera, and the Depot, a historic venue within the landmark Union Pacific Station that offers 17,000 square feet of space and is often used for concerts. Looking ahead, construction has begun on the 2,500-seat Utah Performing Arts Center on Main Street, scheduled to open in 2016.

Associations that have recently visited the city include the Association of Public Treasurers of the U.S. & Canada, the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

In West Valley City, the Maverik Center can be configured to accommodate up to 12,000. Just south, in Sandy, the South Towne Exposition Center features 243,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

North of Salt Lake City, in Layton, the Davis Conference Center has 70,000 square feet of function space including the retro-style Fahrenheit Lounge. The center is attached to a Hilton Garden Inn. And the 4,400-acre Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve is a local highlight.

Just 35 miles north of Salt Lake International Airport, Ogden features a historical downtown lined with locally owned shops and restaurants. It’s also a convenient and picturesque base for outdoor recreation such as skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and fishing.

For meetings, the David Eccles Conference Center & Peery’s Egyptian Theater gets top billing with 60,000 square feet of space. Additional venues include the Golden Spike Event Center, with 41,000 square feet of exhibit space as well as three arenas; the Dee Events Center at Weber State University, which can seat up to 11,592 people; and the 125,000-square-foot Salomon Center, a virtual playground for active attendees with a 32-lane bowling alley, indoor surfing, a climbing wall and restaurants, located at a mixed-use development downtown called The Junction. A newly opened event facility named Hub 801 offers a variety of spaces, from an executive boardroom to a grand ballroom that can seat up to 320 people for dinner. And the Summit Hotel & Conference Center is currently undergoing renovations. Groups that have recently held events in the Ogden area include the Utah Theatre Association, the Utah Professional Florists Association and Rotary International.

About 45 miles north, Logan is home to Utah State University, which works in conjunction with the University Inn & Conference Center to offer groups of up to 650 event space. The downtown Cache Valley Center for the Arts offers its 1,100-seat Ellen Eccles Theatre and its Bullen Center, which can accommodate up to 638 people.

Park City & the Heber Valley: Wowing in the Wasatch

Meeting planners can raise their level of expectations in Park City, a mountain destination that knows how to put on successful and stellar events. The Olympic Winter Games and annual Sundance Film Festival have left a positive impression on the public, and visiting groups have been equally impressed by the city’s amenities: more than 4,000 guest rooms and 125,000 square feet of meeting space; a historic downtown home to stylish shops, galleries and restaurants; and quick access to the slopes.

Downtown is the Sky Lodge, which offers event space, a spa and a rooftop bar with fire pits. Next door, Robert Redford’s Zoom Restaurant has indoor dining and event space for up to 85 and outdoor patio space for up to 100. Just up the street, the carbon-neutral Treasure Mountain Inn is home to the Slamdance Film Festival—held every January—and also hosts more than 50 conferences each year. For executive retreats, the historic, award-winning and renovated Washington School House Hotel has meeting space for up to 28 people.

Off-site settings include the Egyptian Theatre, which can seat up to 300; the Kimball Art Center, which has indoor space for up to 300 and a 4,000-square-foot outdoor event space; and The Yard, which offers more than 100,000 square feet of space. On the north side of town, the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse has 28,000 square feet of space. At Utah Olympic Park, attendees can test their skills on a bobsled and participate in newly expanded team-building offerings. It also features more than a half-dozen venues for gatherings, the largest of which can accommodate up to 300. At the Redstone Center, the Red Rock Brewing Company has opened a new event space that can seat up to 60 people and includes a wood-fired pizza oven. Nearby mountain resorts draw athletic types to the area year-round and, in the wintertime, most of their supporting hotels and resorts offer ski-in/ski-out access. At the Deer Valley Resort, the Stein Eriksen Lodge now offers more meeting space after last year’s introduction of the Stein Ballroom and the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort is adding a new outdoor pavilion.

Snowbird, the mountain resort town located 35 miles west of Park City (or just 20 miles southeast of downtown Salt Lake City), offers 500 lodging units and 50,000 square feet of meeting space.

About 17 miles south of Park City, in Heber City, planners can charter the historic Heber Valley Railroad for private rides of up to three hours for up to 300 people. Special themed excursions with entertainment (such as magic) and food tastings (such as artisanal cheese) can also be arranged. Downtown, the Wasatch County Event Center features a 48,000-square-foot arena with stadium seating for up to 1,850 and an indoor stall complex. In nearby Midway, the Homestead Resort features refreshed guest rooms and a redesigned golf course. Larger groups can spread their meetings between the Homestead and its neighboring sister property, the Zermatt Resort & Spa.

The Utah Valley: Game for Anything

The Utah Valley, located 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, presents a mix of options for associations. In Lehi, the Thanksgiving Point complex offers 28,000 square feet of event space and 55 acres of themed gardens, a shopping emporium and one of the state’s biggest golf clubs, the clubhouse of which can be used for events. Another attraction is Cabela’s, the “World’s Foremost Outfitter,” which provides meeting space for up to 100 people.

Orem is the proud home of Utah Valley University. On campus, the UCCU Center can seat up to 8,500 people and features 65,000 square feet of arena space as well as two presidential meeting suites. Also available is its Sorensen Student Center, which includes the 10,384-square-foot Grande Ballroom, a 400-seat theater and additional conference rooms.

From Orem it’s a quick 12 miles east to the town of Sundance and Robert Redford’s 5,000-acre Sundance Resort, set in a private canyon. The environmentally friendly Redford Conference Center offers 3,500 square feet of meeting space including a boardroom, patios, a full-service kitchen and large fireplaces.

Farther south, a revitalization of downtown Provo has resulted in new dining, shopping and entertainment options. The year-old, 160,000-square-foot recreation center features three gyms that can be used for events, five pool areas and additional sports facilities, and the two-year-old, silver LEED-certified Utah Valley Convention Center features 83,578 square feet of space including a 19,620-square-foot exhibit hall and a 16,984-square-foot divisible grand ballroom.

Also in town is Brigham Young University, whose meeting venues include the BYU Conference Center, offering 17,373 square feet of space. Off campus, the Victorian-style Provo Library at Academy Square has six public meeting rooms, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom. And in nearby Spanish Fork, the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds has 130,000 square feet of space. Recent events held in the area include the annual International Shingo Conference, the VitalSmarts 2013 Conference and the Women’s Conference, co-sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society.

St. George & Cedar City: Natural Connections

St. George, in southwestern Utah, is the gateway to two of the country’s most stunning national parks: Zion and Bryce Canyon. In the area, the Dixie Convention Center regularly welcomes trade shows, meetings and other events for up to 5,000 people. Features include a 46,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall and 32,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Area resorts with event space include the Green Valley Spa & Hotel and the Red Mountain Resort & Spa in Ivins, both of which can accommodate groups of up to 100 people. Forty miles east of St. George, in Springdale, the Canyon Community Center offers a 2,600-square-foot meeting space, a gallery and an amphitheater.

Natural wonders also aren’t far from Cedar City, 50 miles north of St. George. Downtown, Southern Utah University welcomes groups to use its facilities; these include the Hunter Conference Center, for groups of up to 350, and the Sharwan Smith Center, with a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and six meeting rooms. Other options in town include the 30,000-square-foot Festival Hall Convention Center and, adjacent, the 1,000-seat Heritage Center Theater.

In the nearby ski destination of Brian Head, the Grand Lodge at Brian Head (formerly the DoubleTree Resort & Spa by Hilton) has meeting space for small groups and the Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa offers newly refurbished conference space for up to 100. Larger groups can head to the Summit Mountain Lodge & Resort, which offers accommodations that range from “glamped-out” yurts to traditional guest rooms.

Farther north, in Beaver—the birthplace of Butch Cassidy—recreational activities include golf at the Canyon Breeze Course, horse racing at the Canyon Breeze Training Center, and mountain activities and event venues for up to 300 at the Eagle Point Resort.

Moab: Expansion & Exploration

The eastern town of Moab might be small—its population is a little less than 5,500—but its recreational potential is mighty. Many visitors use it as a base for visiting a pair of national parks—Arches and Canyonlands—as well as Dead Horse Point State Park and the Colorado River. Moab’s largest meeting hotel is the Moab Valley Inn & Conference Center. There has been a recent surge in local hotel-room growth to help support the meeting venues, which include the Old Spanish Trail Arena, with 24,000 square feet of indoor space and outdoor seating for up to 3,500; the Moab Arts & Recreation Center, with 2,888 square feet of space; the historic 289-seat Star Hall; the contemporary Grand Center, with 3,200 square feet of space; and Canyonlands By Night & Day, a tour operator located on the Colorado River with a 4,140-square-foot building that can be used for functions.

Northwest of town, the Bar-M Chuckwagon provides 3,600 square feet of event space. Northeast of town, the Red Cliffs Lodge and the Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa welcome groups. Upcoming meetings of note include the Annual Summer Interdisciplinary Conference in June and the Utah State H.O.G. Rally in August.

Eventful Journeys

Organizers planning an event in Utah quickly become aware of the abundance of venues, amenities and attractions—everything vital to a well-rounded agenda. From intimate meetings at scenic retreats to big events at the heart of the city, Utah always offers attendees a diverse experience.