NOV 2017

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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Page 41 of 59

⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 42 A L A B A M A Auburn/Opelika Two of the top meeting and lodging venues in the Auburn/Opelika area are completing major upgrades, according to the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau. The 236-room Hotel at Auburn University has begun extensive renovations to give guests a re-imagined experience during meetings and events at the hotel's 27,000-square-foot Dixon Conference Center, including new functionality that allows both ballrooms to connect, adds new technology and provides overall enhance- ments done in collaboration with AU's nation- ally ranked interior design program. Also, the Auburn/Opelika Marriott at Grand National, already recognized as one of the top five Marriott Hotels in North and South Amer- ica, is completing renovations and adding a 20,000-square-foot spa and 95 additional guest rooms to officially become a Marriott Resort in spring 2018. The soon-to-be resort has 15,000 square feet of event space with 12 breakout rooms and a ballroom that can seat up to 500. (See breakout spotlight on page 44 for more information.) The Auburn and Opelika area has more than 2,400 guest rooms and is welcoming four new properties, according to the tourism bureau: a Home2 Suites and TownePlace Suites (now open), and a Tru by Hilton and La Quinta, opening in 2018. Other event venues in the area include Auburn Arena, with 1,130-square-foot arena floor, terraces, mezzanine, lounges, suites and meeting rooms suitable for a variety of events; the Bottling Plant Event Center, with ballrooms, meeting rooms and a rooftop terrace; and Auburn University Club, with a 12,000-square-foot club- house. Additional lodging with limited event spaces includes Clarion Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express Auburn and Holiday Inn Express Opelika. Birmingham If there's one activity that's favored over any other for conventions in Birmingham, it's likely dining. According to the Greater Bir- mingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, excellent chef-owned restaurants are plentiful, from high-end dining in the city center to one of the South's longest steam tables in the suburbs. "Few cities can claim a better cluster of top-notch dining rooms than in downtown Birmingham: close to the Birmingham-Jeffer- son Convention Complex (BJCC) and practi- cally in walking distance of each other," said Dilcy Hilley, vice president of marketing with the Birmingham CVB. One new dining experience covers many bases, according to the CVB: a historic down- town department store has reopened as the Pizitz Food Hall, bringing new culinary expe- riences to the city, with a central bar and 13 food stalls serving regional favorites and ethnic dishes from around the world. Also new downtown is The Elyton Hotel, an Autograph Collection property located in ► Big news on the Alabama Gulf Coast is the planned opening of The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel. "This stunning hotel and meeting space is expected to open by January 2019 with a 12,000-square- foot ballroom, almost 5,000 square feet of pre-function area, breakout rooms and abundant outdoor space," said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. "This property is a model of resilient, environmentally-friendly coastal development where connectivity to the outdoors is a central focus. It's designed to meet the elite LEED Gold and SITES Platinum Certifications along with a fortified building certification. We are very excited to have this fabulous new hotel and event venue on the Alabama Gulf Coast." The 350-room lodge will feature 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space with six flexible meeting suites, seven con- ference rooms, board room, hospitality suite, beachside venues and gathering spots, and the largest beachview ballroom on the Gulf Coast that will accommodate up to 1,000 guests for dinners or meetings and feature a 7,100-square-foot outdoor terrace. A national sales team is now in place for The Lodge at Gulf State Park and planners are encouraged to get in touch with the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism Sales Team for more information. Along with prime meeting and event spaces, The Lodge at Gulf State Park includes a Gulf-front pool with pool bar and grille, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a coffee and wine bar, and a Gulf-front restaurant and bar with private dining room for events. "Known for its ecological diversity, the 6,150-acre Gulf State Park enhancement project is well on its way to becoming an international benchmark of economic and en- vironmental sustainability demonstrating best practices for outdoor recreation, education, and hospitable accommodations," Gendler said. In addition to the new lodge, the park has a 496-site RV campground, 20 cabins and 11 cottages on the lake. n B R E A K O U T S P O T L I G H T : Orange Beach/Gulf Shores: The Lodge at Gulf State Park Contact:

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