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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 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 5 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ 35 The midsection of "The Natural State" offers up its capital city, "America's First Re- sort" and a growing college town. Only about two hours by car from Memphis, three from Shreveport and four from Dallas–all by interstate, the Central Arkansas area is convenient for a multitude of corporations over much of the South. The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock extends that sweet spot to the entire nation. n I N S I D E R ' S G U I D E By T. Wayne Waters Central Arkansas n Little Rock n Hot Springs n Conway "It is a great time to be in Little Rock and in Arkansas," said Little Rock CVB Vice Presi- dent/Director of Marketing and Communications John Mayner. "We just celebrated the tenth an- niversary of the opening of the Clinton Library in November of 2014, and since it's opening in 2004, it has been a catalyst for more than $3.3 billion of investment in our city's ongoing revitalization and development." The heart of Little Rock has been transform- ing in recent years. The Creative Corridor project has been initiated to transform a four-block seg- ment of the city's historic downtown Main Street into a thriving "mixed-use working and living environment anchored by the arts." The largest under-construction project in the city is the $70 million renovation of the Robin- son Center, Little Rock's iconic performance venue with an adjoining exhibition hall and meeting rooms. The current timetable has it re-opening in the autumn of 2016. Of most interest to meeting planners are the improvements being made in the Robinson Center's new conference cen- ter, and meeting and banquet spaces. The additional space will offer lobbies and pre-func- tion space that adjoins the adjacent DoubleTree Little Rock Hotel and nice views of the Arkansas River. The new ball- room will accommodate up to 500 people for a seated banquet. Overall, the facility will offer 12,450 square feet in the primary conference room; about 8,300 square feet in breakout rooms; and more than 20,000 in the lobby. Improvements to the Center's Performance Hall will include technology upgrades and re- freshed interior features. The plans call for more than 2,100 seats in the new performance hall. The 288-room DoubleTree Hotel Little Rock is undergoing a $5 million renovation that will carry on as the Robinson Center is renewed. There will be sig- nificant cosmetic upgrades throughout the property. Meanwhile, the Little Rock Mar- riott, connected to another of the city's primary meeting spaces, the 220,000- square-foot Statehouse Convention Center, finished its $16 million dollar renovation in October of last year. The hotel's new Heritage Grille has received considerable buzz, according to Mayner. Little Rock also got a new hotel late last year on its west side – the Hilton Garden Inn West Little Rock. There are three new hotels scheduled to open downtown between 2015 and 2016, accord- ing to Mayner. These include another Hilton Garden Inn slated for late-2015 or early 2016, a Homewood Suites later this year, and a 140- room Aloft opening in 2016. Besides all the news, Little Rock maintains some exceptional attractions including the Old Statehouse Museum, several major arts and entertainment venues, five breweries (and two more on the way), an award-winning distillery and a goodly number of downtown eateries, including those in the River Market's two out- door, open-air pavilions overlooking Riverfront Park and the Arkansas River. Little Rock's Riverfront Park runs on the south bank of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock, pro- viding 33 acres of public greenway and walk- ways. This riverside jewel has a nature center, sculpture garden, amphitheater, history pavilion, and easy access to two pedestrian bridges. n Little Rock Rocks! ALABAMA A RKANSAS FLORIDA G EORGIA KENTUCKY LOUISIANA MARYLAND MISSISSIPPI MISSOURI NORTH CAROLINA OKLAHOMA SOUTH CAROLINA TENNESSEE TEXAS VIRGINIA WEST VIRGINIA South on Main is a great place to catch local & regional artists performing. Architectural rendering of the Robinson Center renovation project