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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B A T O N R O U G E J U N E 2 0 1 5 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 41 So it's no wonder that Baton Rouge is home to a first-rate, multi-purpose convention center and entertainment complex as well as a major university with a top-notch conference center. The city also has its own small airport, though it's served as well by the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, only 80 miles away. Two things – one on each end of the size scale – signify as much as anything else the reinvigoration of downtown Baton Rouge. On the big end is a new $55 million, mixed-use downtown development that should be com- pleted by the end of 2015. On the small end is the recent opening of a full-service grocery store in the city center. The first will bring hun- dreds of jobs and new residents to downtown; the second, for anyone familiar with core city growth patterns, is a sure sign that there are already a considerable number of people living in downtown Baton Rouge. Visit Baton Rouge CVB President and CEO Paul Arrigo summed up the energy and appeal of the city for meeting planners and visitors of any kind. "Baton Rouge is booming with new down- town developments and a renovated River Center, new restaurants and nightlife," said Ar- rigo. "We're a very affordable destination with a unique Louisiana experience, and the city is easily accessible by interstate or air." Or river. Baton Rouge is a popular dock city for overnight riverboat excursions. American Cruise Lines has 84 dockings scheduled this year at the Baton Rouge Riverfront Landing Facility. Another element of Baton Rouge's vigor is the recent opening of several restaurants and watering holes. Arrigo pointed to the Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar, Table Kitchen & Bar, City Pork Deli & Charcuterie and Lock & Key Whiskey Bar. The oyster bar is downtown while the others are slightly southeast of the center of the city. COMING SOON! The new Baton Rouge IBM Services Center is already up and running, but the 10-story resi- dential and retail components of the $55 mil- lion downtown project won't be complete until the end of the year. A couple of new hotels will open within the next year. Due for an August 2015 opening is a 148-room Watermark Marriott Autograph. It will be a full-service hotel with a fine-dining restaurant. The Watermark Building, constructed in 1926 as the first skyscraper in Baton Rouge, has exceptional ar- chitectural and art features, including vin- tage murals painted by New Orleans artist Angela Gregory, carved marble walls and a grand staircase – all of which developers plan to retain. A 147-room Marriott Courtyard is slated to open downtown by summer 2016. PRIMARY MEETING SPACES Baton Rouge's primary meeting space is the Baton Rouge River Center, located on the banks of the mighty Mississippi and boasting a large outdoor veranda overlooking the river. The complex offers more than 200,000 square feet of new and renovated space, including the new 70,000-square-foot exhibition hall and 13 breakout rooms. The 12,000-seat, multi-use arena has 30,000 square feet of column-free floor space and the 1,900-seat Theatre for the Performing Arts has a proscenium stage. The Cook Hotel and Conference Center at Louisiana State University (LSU) offers 128 guest rooms and more than 13,000 square feet of event space. The on-campus location gives the hotel a special vibe, and the professional staff makes meeting and event planning easy. The Renaissance by Marriott Baton Rouge, located near the LSU campus, offers 256 guest rooms and first-class meeting facilities with 13,000 square feet of event space, including the Bourbeau Ballroom. The Embassy Suites Baton Rouge is just three miles from the center of downtown and offers 7,000 square feet of meeting space, accommodating up to 500 participants. SPECIAL SPACES Baton Rouge offers many appealing event spaces for smaller meetings and receptions. For example: n The Old State Capitol, a mid-19 th century building and a National Historic Land- mark, sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Both the House and Senate chambers are available for after- hours rentals. There are also several con- ference rooms available during the day for smaller gatherings. n The Capitol Park Museum, the newest and largest of the branches of the Louisiana State Museum system, is located across from the state capitol. The museum has three galleries and more than 10,000 square feet of indoor and covered outdoor space for special events and meetings. n The Old Governor's Mansion, built in 1929 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, has elegant space for small receptions and dinners in its East Ballroom which features original terrazzo floors, pier mirrors and crystal chandeliers. n The Louisiana Art & Science Museum has meeting space available in its main and upper art galleries, the 100-seat Adalié Brent Auditorium, and a smaller meeting room. The museum's Challenger Learning Center offers a great corporate team-building opportunity with its space shuttle simulator. n Southern University's Museum of Art is inside the Martin L. Harvey Auditorium on the university campus. It has eight galleries dedicated to African and Afri- can-American art, a stage, and foyers at the front and rear of the building. Capital Park Museum