ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.
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w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m Topping their list of things that most impressed them was the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Using terms such as "phenomenal," "beautiful," and "one of the best we've ever seen," meeting professionals raved about the attractive design of the 515,125-square foot facility. As General Manager Courtney Dyer, CFE, explained, the convention center, which was completed in 2007, was designed to capture the essence of the coastal destination in the design and theme. To this end, the entrance features a soaring, nautical glass- curtain wall that appears to float in pools of water both inside and outside the building. Additionally, attendees can view the oceanfront skyline from a 10-story observation deck. This was my first chance to view the Convention Center and I shared the meeting planners' appreciation for the appearance, feel and functionality of the facility. Planners and writers alike were pleased with the many conservation features of the convention center, which achieved LEED ® Gold certification for Existing Buildings in 2010. In addition to low-water-use fixtures, sustainable wood and natural lighting are integrated throughout the building to reduce energy use, while an on-site garden provides fresh produce used for many catered events at the facility. Down on the Boardwalk Planners also liked Virginia Beach's variety of accommodations, in a wide range of prices, along the beach and inland. We were able to stay in two of the hotels along the city's famous boardwalk; the OceanAire and the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, both owned and operated by of GoldKey/PHR Hotels & Resorts. The 18-story OceanAire Resort Hotel, opened in 2012, was designed for corporate and executive retreats. There's more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including 2,600 feet of 10th floor function space overlooking the beach. The second floor is dedicated to conference space, including several meeting rooms and two executive suites, all equipped with the latest technology. The hotel's 10 th floor lounge and deck offers gorgeous space for receptions or special events. Along with Indoor and outdoor pools, a 17 th floor fitness center overlooks the beach. The guestrooms offer sleek style along with the comforts of home, including suites with full kitchens. At the 21-story Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, the nine meeting rooms have the latest audio-visual capabilities, along with a colorful decor. One of the second floor event spaces features a balcony that allows a great view of Neptune Park, where bands perform every evening throughout the summer months. For late-night activity, the Sky Bar Lounge offers the glamour and glitz of Miami's South Beach. Paul van Leeuwen, president of professional hospitality resources for Gold Key/ PHR Hotels & Resorts, said the company operates 1,500 hotels rooms with 22,000 square feet of meeting space, and nine restaurants in the city. "We've made a strong commitment to Virginia Beach and we have not stopped exploring market opportunities," he said. Gold Key/PHR also operates The Shops at 31 Ocean, with 100,000 square feet of boutique shopping, dining and entertainment. Additionally, the company is building a 14- story Hilton Garden Inn along the boardwalk, which will include 167 guestrooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space along with a family pizzeria, gelato bar and pastry bakery across the street. All of the hotels along the three-mile boardwalk and in the surrounding area offer guests a chance to ride bikes, rollerblade or stroll along the raised platform. Kids and adults play volleyball, soccer and frisbee in the sand and swim and boogie board in the surf. There are also lots of inland waterways to explore and enjoy, with fishing, pleasure boating and kayaking among the many options. Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBODY is the first playground in the country designed for those of all capabilities. Around The Town Other favorable aspects of Virginia Beach, meeting planners said, are many great places for special events. Town Center, located a few miles inland, features a 1,300-seat Sandler Center for the Performing Arts that hosts artists of international acclaim. Shopping and dining options abound in this area. Special events can also be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Virginia Aquarium. There's also a variety of free-time attractions, such as Motorworld Family Thrill Park, with 10 racetracks and 200 go-carts, the 19-acre Ocean Breeze Waterpark and First Landing State Park. Even with all its impressive assets, Virginia Beach is looking forward to further enhance meeting-goers' experiences, CVB Director James Ricketts pointed out. A large entertainment complex, planned for an area four blocks from the convention center, will offer Broadway Shows and live musical talent, a skating rink, movie theaters, restaurants and other family-friendly activities. ■ R E S O R T M E E T I N G S Site Visit By Marcia Bradford Very pleasantly surprised. Those words came up most frequently when a group of meeting planners were recently asked to describe how they felt about their first visit to Virginia Beach, Va. Welcome To The New Virginia Beach My view from the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ M A Y 2 0 1 4 18 *10-27 CS May 2014_Layout 1 4/30/14 1:11 PM Page 18