JAN 2015

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 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 5 44 I N S I D E R ' S G U I D E By Marcia Bradford ALABAMA A RKANSAS FLORIDA GEORGIA KENTUCKY LOUISIANA MARYLAND MISSISSIPPI MISSOURI NORTH CAROLINA OKLAHOMA TENNESSEE TEXAS VIRGINIA WEST VIRGINIA From glamorous casinos featuring 24-hour gaming and top-tier entertainment to tucked-away historic treasures, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a mixture of fast-paced excitement and laid- back charm.  With 62 miles of scenic shoreline on or near the Gulf of Mexico and several small southern towns, it's a place where visitors can participate in ecotourism adventures in the morning and tour microbreweries during the afternoon. "The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers so many options for meeting and event planners," said Renée Areng, CDME, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention  Visitors Bureau. "From charming and historic locations to the grandeur of casino properties and the Coast Convention Center, planners can create a personal experience on the Coast."  n Mississippi Gulf Coast Convene Near the Beach In early December, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center hosted the premiere event of the national LEGO Creativity Tour, Powered by LEGO KidsFest, drawing more than 16,000 people over three days. Aaron Wartner, spokesperson for the LEGO KidsFest, described both the facility and the surrounding community as "fantastic." He explained that the LEGO Creativity Tour was developed as a way to connect with smaller markets. "We had an awesome experience. Both the center staff and the CVB staff were amazingly helpful and the convention center is spectacular," Wartner said. "It's attractive and filled with light, easy to get in and out of and immaculate - you could have eaten off the showroom floor." The location near the beach and the many nearby attractions helped draw people from throughout the region, he added. "Everyone is surprised on their first visit here, when they see how large and attractive this facility is," said Jaime Ochs, event coordinator for the convention center. Just across the street from the beach, the 400,000- square-foot facility can handle groups of up to 6,000 for everything from trade shows to elegant dinners, she explained. Completely renovated in 2009, it features an attractive light-filled lobby with decor that reflects the surrounding water, sand and sunny climate of the Mississippi coast. The exhibit hall has 35-foot ceilings, along with the latest in telecommunications, storage, load capacity and power. Accessibility is a big selling point for the facility, Ochs said. Just 10 miles from the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, the center has 2,000 on-site parking spaces and loading docks that can accommodate extra-large items. The Coliseum, located next door, seats up to 15,000, allowing for a variety of activities at one property, Ochs pointed out. Last summer, the 1,500 participants of a Baptist Youth Group conference held group functions in the arena and smaller breakout activities in the convention center meeting rooms. For additional convention and event space, the Biloxi Civic Center has a 15,214-square-foot ballroom and can accommodate groups of up to 2,500. A great spot for performances and ceremonies, the facility features a stage, mezzanine, dressing rooms, a green room and state-of- the-art audiovisual system. n

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