September 01, 2016

Conversations about convention centers will always include square footage and capacity. But it's time to say goodbye to the traditional convention center and hello to the convention center of the future-where the capacity is but one of many considerations for planners. Meeting planners and attendees are no longer conforming to the limitations of traditional convention centers. They are however, driving the current trends in facility design, such as aesthetics, flexible meeting space, breakout options, networking areas in public spaces, up-to-date technology, urban integration and sustainability.

And now more than ever before, the destination itself is a main selling point for facilities. Planners are looking at the whole city as the venue, because attendees are looking for an experience: They want to connect with the people, culture and lifestyle of the destination without having to travel far to get it. All spaces in and around convention facilities, including adjacent hotels, public plazas, entertainment and dining options, should be highly walkable.


The city of Irving embraced meeting planner and attendee expectations with the opening of its convention center in 2011, along with a vision to create a vibrant and distinctive entertainment/visitor's district around the facility.


One city embracing this concept is Irving, Texas. The vision for Irving extends beyond its state-of-the-art convention facility. The Irving Music Factory, an all-in-one dining and entertainment destination adjacent the convention center, is slated to open next summer. And a 350-room Westin convention center hotel is in the design stage and slated to open in 2018. "The hotel represents the final piece to Irving's vision for a distinctive visitor district," says Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Maura Gast. The Irving Convention Center was the initial anchor, the Irving Music Factory with its Live Nation amphitheater and collection of restaurants is the second piece, and the headquarter hotel is the third. This easily accessed, pedestrian-friendly, 40-acre district will provide a wide range of entertainment and dining options to fill free nights on the convention schedule, as well as to provide an excellent venue for opening or closing night events."

The Irving Convention Center takes a bold new direction in a landscape of traditionally "institutional" facilities. The center's vertical "stacked" layout enables Irving to simultaneously host sporting events, corporate and trade meetings, galas and other civic events while allowing each group to have its own distance space and ambience. For larger groups, the vertical design means delegates can flow efficiently between events.

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