Groups that seek peaks as backdrops also typically are looking for unique factors, outdoor diversions and top-notch facilities. We searched for convention and conference centers that deliver this trio of assets and more, offering examples in the heart of central business districts, on a college campus, minutes away from national parks and steps from the slopes.
Located in the heart of Ogden, Utah, two adjacent facilities have been creatively combined to make up one conference center with views of the Wasatch Mountains. David Eccles Conference Center & Peery’s Egyptian Theater can host meet-ings and events for up to 1,500 attendees. The conference center features two floors of gathering space, including two ball-rooms, several meeting rooms, a rooftop patio, a courtyard and lobby spaces, offer-ing a total of 79,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.
Built as a movie palace in 1924, Peery’s Egyptian Theater came close to facing a wrecking ball but fortunately was restored to its original splendor and reopened in 1997 as part of the conference center proj-ect. The 800-seat theater offers program-ming open to the public and groups and is thought to be one of only “a handful of Egyptian-style theaters remaining,” says Director of Sales & Marketing Ross Reeder.
A few years ago, the Grassroots Outdoor Retailers rented the conference center and used the theater for a general session featur-ing speaker Aron Ralston and later showed the film 127 Hours based on his mountain climbing ordeal, Reeder recalls.
The Utah Tourism Conference, cosponsored by the Utah Tourism Industry Association and Utah Office of Tourism, brought 300 people to the conference center in September and held an evening reception at nearby Snow Basin. “I’ve done meet-ing planning for a long time and found the Eccles Conference Center to be amazingly versatile. The A/V and logistics worked really well,” says Nan Groves Anderson, executive director of Utah Tourism Industry Association. The opening session required sophisticated A/V, which the cen-ter delivered along with a prime location downtown offering easy access to hotels, attractions, shops and eateries. “It worked incredibly well; we believe it was our best conference,” she says.
Built in 2008 with a style that respects Santa Fe’s distinct adobe architecture and located only a few blocks from the town’s historic plaza, Santa Fe Community Convention Center is an inviting and architecturally interesting place for groups of up to 2,000, with gatherings of 850 to 950 being the ideal size, confirms Director of Sales David Carr. The 72,000-square-foot facility has 40,000 square feet of indoor function space, including a large ballroom, smaller meeting rooms and an attractive community art gallery, as well as a spa-cious landscaped courtyard and rooftop patio that holds up to 150 and overlooks the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
This isn’t a cookie-cutter convention center but one that shouts local with carved furniture by regional artisans, Navajo rugs and Spanish colonial tin accents through-out the LEED Gold-certified structure. The property earned LEED Gold in a variety of ways, including a garden roof planted with native grasses and plants, reclaimed timber on the exterior sourced from the nearby Sierra Blanca forest fire, 15,000-gallon rainwater collection tanks for landscaping irrigation, and solar pan-els. Approximately 88 percent of construction materials used were recycled from the city’s previous convention center.
Groups like the American Institute for Medical Education (AIME) return year after year for the unique ambiance of the convention center and surrounding atmosphere of Santa Fe, Carr says. AIME holds Creativity and Madness conferences around the world, including Santa Fe this past July, utilizing nearby restaurants and nightspots for social events.
In the heart of the mountains you’ll find Colorado’s Keystone Conference Center at Keystone Resort, which offers more than 60,000 square feet of meeting, function and exhibit space, including two ballrooms and five meeting rooms that can host up to 1,500 attendees. The three-story space includes a circular third-floor boardroom with spectacular views and a connected rooftop patio.
This is the largest conference center in the Colorado Rockies. There are an additional 40,000 square feet of gather-ing space at Keystone Resort, primarily at Keystone Lodge & Spa and Inn at Keystone, along with 1,200 lodging units, outdoor activities year-round and mem-orable on-mountain venues and dining options such as Der Fondue Chessel and Alpenglow Stube.
Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, two golf courses, hiking and more are within easy reach of Keystone Conference Center, making it simple to schedule fun time and team-building forays; it’s only a five-minute free shuttle ride to the slopes. “Keystone Conference Center is an incred-ible meeting facility, plus it isn’t down the I-70 corridor but instead offers a secluded, campus-like atmosphere,” says Director of Sales Mark Barnes. Keystone’s community impact initiative, “Meetings that Move You,” provides groups with a compli-mentary team-building activity if booked before May of any year. Team-building activities are led by a professional facilita-tor and include trail repair, bike building (with bikes donated to youth groups) or a customized event.
High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, situated on the Northern Arizona University campus only a few blocks south of downtown, can host groups of up to 800 and is certified by the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC). Nearly 26,000 square feet of space is available between the more modern Main Building and historic North Union’s 1899 Ballroom. Drury Hotel, connected to the conference center via a skywalk bridge, adds five meeting rooms suitable for 14 to 60 guests theater-style.
The Main Building’s Peaks Ballroom encompasses 10,500 square feet, while the smaller 1899 Ballroom is just over 1,800 square feet and surrounded by windows. An outstanding $1 million A/V system is one of the major benefits of utilizing the Main Building, which also features an executive boardroom and two additional breakout rooms, notes Director of Sales and Marketing Chris Shields. Outdoors, Potter’s Square and Patio, adjacent to the 1899 Ballroom, holds up to 175 and features a gas fireplace and heaters. An expansive grassy lawn that connects Main Building and North Union can host a maximum of 450.
KICK BACK & RELAX
Aspen Meadows Resort is nestled in Aspen’s quieter west end on a 40-acre campus. The resort also has IACC’s stamp of approval and is home to the world-renowned Aspen Institute. Plenty of green space encourages conference and meet-ing attendees to stroll and interact when wandering outside the 14 meeting spaces throughout six buildings.
The 22,000 square feet of meeting and event space is thoughtfully designed for comfort and productivity and highlights the classic Bauhaus International School of Design architecture, a hallmark of the property.
The Gold LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center, Paepcke Memorial Building (totally rebuilt in 2011) and Koch Seminar Building offer a wealth options. Plus, terraces and patios and the summer-only pavilion are available for outside gatherings to take advantage of beautiful summer and fall days and evenings. All 98 guest suites were updated last fall, and there is a full-scale health club and two dining options, Plato’s and Meadows Restaurant.
For over a decade, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges has been hosting its Institute for Board Chairs and Presidents of Independent Colleges at Aspen Meadows Resort. “The beautiful campus-like prop-erty with the snow-capped mountains and natural surroundings somehow gives our participants permission to exist in the present and focus on the issues and assign-ments at hand, without the pressures that they have to deal with on a daily basis,” says Director of Conferences and Events Audrey Young.
“The wildflowers, aspen trees, fresh air and rhythm of the river are so conducive to thinking! Being surrounded by photos of great thinkers with big ideas inspires us all to have the courage to go deeper into ourselves and ask and answer diffi-cult questions,” she says.
Young also notes that the close proxim-ity to the airport is a major benefit as once attendees arrive each summer, they are only minutes away from their destination. “It’s a peaceful place to meditate and think about where you are and want to be as an organization,” Young says.
One of only two IACC members in the Pacific Northwest, Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, also has 22,000 square feet of dedicated meeting and event space that is conference center-style and spread across 23 meeting rooms, including two ballrooms. Just a short drive from Portland, Oregon, and situated on 175 wooded acres inside Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Skamania Lodge also offers a scenic setting for gath-erings that utilize the 40,000 square feet of outdoor function space, including an amphitheater, dining spaces and lawns.
In 2015, the conference center is under-going major renovation and the 254 guest rooms, including 60 with fireplaces, are receiving new soft goods and TVs. Also, two luxury tree houses with decks and gathering spaces below with fire pits are being constructed and promise to be fun spaces for groups, notes Director of Sales and Marketing Todd Gillespie.
Skamania, the Chinook Indian word for swift water, was constructed in 1993 to resemble the great lodges of the early 1900s and has three restaurants and all sorts of on-site activities such as golf, ten-nis, ziplining, biking, basketball, hiking, plus a spa and fitness center. “Groups of 40 to 90 are our ideal size, but we can host up to 750 as well,” says Gillespie. “We are truly a destination resort that is incred-ibly beautiful and only 45 minutes from a major city.”
The 302-room Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is perched at 5,200 feet in the High Sierras, less than five minutes from the southern gate of Yosemite National Park, and features more than 15,000 square feet of Silver LEED-certified con-ference facilities, including the elegant Grand Ballroom that can host up to 850 for banquets. After a day of meetings or outdoor adventure, attendees can unwind in the Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa or enjoy dinner at one of five on-site restaurants (two open only season-ally). For groups, Ascent Spa can organize an Iron Spa experience, with teams creating spa products that can be taken home.
Based in Fish Camp, California, Tenaya Lodge’s conference center has 14 indoor meeting rooms all in one area of the resort and two attractive outdoor options, includ-ing a 3,000-square-foot covered outdoor pavilion that is used as an ice skating rink in the winter and a 3,000-square-foot grand terrace with forest views. The out-door pool area was enlarged this past sum-mer, and there are two indoor pools as well as seasonal activities like archery, a rock climbing wall, sledding, mountain biking, geocaching and guided hikes in the Sierra National Forest offered on-site.
These mountain convention and con-ference centers not only deliver top-notch indoor meeting rooms and lovely outdoor gathering spaces, they offer memorable activities and dynamite scenery that keep clients returning year after year and attendees asking for more.