Home of 24 Fortune 500 headquarters, including three in the top 10, North Texas is a major engine of the $1.8 trillion-plus Texas economy.
Big business means big visitation in the state’s top travel region, which is also a pillar of the $164 billion Texas tourism economy.
In the ever-expanding Metroplex—comprised of the Dallas–Plano–Irving and Fort Worth–Arlington metro areas—it also means big investment in meetings and hospitality infrastructure. Since 2009, Arlington has poured some $6.5 billion (and counting) into big league projects like AT&T Stadium and the new Texas Live! entertainment district, for example.
Billions more have completely redefined Frisco, Irving and Plano, alongside transformative growth in Dallas, Fort Worth and Grapevine. Emerging players like suburban Addison are only expanding the field.
Distinction in this white-hot market requires serious brand strength. Here are the new stand-out stories in the Metroplex.
Ranked fifth on Cvent’s 2019 ranking of top U.S. meetings destinations, Dallas is reasserting its regional and national appeal.
“From association and corporate to diversity and sports, planners and event organizers are rediscovering our thriving meetings destination,” said Brad Kent, chief sales officer for VisitDallas.
Airlift is a major advantage.
“Many planners understand that holding an event anywhere in the region or Texas means that a great number of attendees will pass through Dallas,” Kent said. “It just makes sense for them to avoid connecting flights and book here. And with labor rates 27% below the national average, Dallas provides unmatched bottom line value.”
Dallas currently has a record-setting hotel construction pipeline of 163 projects totaling 19,689 rooms, second in the nation behind NYC. Some 30 new properties adding 3,604 rooms are slated to open in 2019, with another 33 hotels adding 4,163 rooms in 2020.
In the City of Cowboys and Culture, history carries enduring brand appeal.
“Still vibrantly displayed in the Stockyards National Heritage District, the city’s authentic Western heritage remains one of our strongest selling points with planners,” said John Cychol, vice president of sales for Visit Fort Worth. “They also rave about the abundant restaurants, entertainment and nightlife options outside the Convention Center doors. Fort Worth conventioneers get a downtown for free!”
Fort Worth’s 2019 Golden Ticket promotional campaign for planners offers three VIP experiences themed around the city’s extensive culinary, sports and music portfolio.
Another “golden ticket” was the March 2019 Wonka-esque inauguration of the new $1 billion TEXRail project. Hundreds of invitees experienced the new 27-mile commuter rail line, which links downtown Fort Worth with DFW International Airport.
The city is going for yet more riches with 1,000 new hotel rooms; the new $450 million Dickies Arena, scheduled for November 2019; and a future new convention center (see Convention Center Central, page 8).
“Increasing national brand recognition is enhancing planner perception and attendee engagement with our destination,” Cychol said. “It’s an exciting time for Fort Worth.”
Texas Live! / Credit: Arlington CVB
Irving: A Bold New Identity and Convention District
Opened in April 2019, the $113 million Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas culminated Irving’s vision for an integrated convention district.
Offering 30,000 square feet of space and a 10,000-square-foot event lawn, the 350-room headquarters hotel sits between the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas and Toyota Music Factory.
“Along with the new Water Street dining, entertainment and residential development along Lake Carolyn, these projects have completely repositioned Irving,” said Visit Irving Executive Director Maura Gast. “Evolving from a suburb into our own destination, we offer first-tier amenities attuned to smaller meetings in a second-tier setting.”
Long promoting its centralized location as an ideal hub-and-spoke base for Metroplex attendees, Irving now has plenty to keep groups in town.
“For the first time in 20-plus years, ‘lack of things to do’ was not reflected in surveys of our customers and local hoteliers as a reason for lost business,” Gast said.
Plano: A Meetings Destination Transformed
In 2018, Bisnow Dallas-Fort Worth named Toyota’s 2015 relocation from L.A. to Plano one of the “6 Projects That Transformed Dallas Into A Global Powerhouse Over the Last 10 Years.”
The article credits Toyota with inspiring the development of Legacy West, a 355-acre mixed-use campus with some 16 million square feet of corporate space and 100-plus surrounding Fortune 500 companies.
Epically transformed, once sleepy Plano has a commanding new image.
“Excellence defines the Plano brand,” said Visit Plano Executive Director Mark Thompson. “And that excellence is synonymous with the seamless experience we strive to deliver to meeting planners, individual travelers and corporate relocations looking to do business here.”
Offering 30,000 square feet of conference space, the 299-room Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2019 as a meetings magnet.
Future developments include a proposed 175-room Radisson hotel connected to the Plano Event Center.
Frisco: Sports Facilities and PGA of America Headquarters Keep the City in Championship Form
Sporting the most professional teams of any U.S. city, fast-expanding Frisco is adding golf to its preeminent roster.
The PGA of America announced the relocation of its Florida headquarters to Frisco in December 2018. It will anchor a new half-billion-dollar 600-acre, mixed-use development. Plans include a 500-room Omni resort and 127,000-square-foot conference center, slated for around late 2022. Two championship golf courses and other facilities are expected in the preceding months.
Plano Box Garden at Legacy Hall | Credit: Visit Plano
Another recent mega-investment moving once sleepy Frisco into the major leagues is The Star, world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys with the attached 300-room Omni Frisco Hotel.
The newly renovated 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium now offers the event-capable National Soccer Hall of Fame.
“Having hotels attached to entertainment complexes, next door to two sports facilities, and adjacent to a golf course helps Frisco standout in the DFW area,” said Visit Frisco Executive Director Marla Roe. “Suburban Frisco can be challenging to describe, but it’s not for the lack of incredible venues and meetings hotels…When I first started in Frisco, everyone thought it was San Francisco. Now, planners are tuned into who we are and what is happening in our city.”
Grapevine Juices Up With New Projects and MPI’s World Education Congress
Delegates traveling to Grapevine for MPI’s 2020 World Education Congress next June can look forward to experiencing the destination’s unique brand of Texas charm.
“That’s our theme for the group market,” said Brady Closson, managing director of sales and marketing for the Grapevine CVB. “Opportunities will include exploring Historic Downtown Grapevine’s Urban Wine & Craft Brew Trail, dining at locally owned bistros and cafes, shopping at unique boutiques and finding inspiration at local galleries and studios.”
Reinvestment is a key competitive strategy of the moment.
Multiple major projects include:
- Adding 303 guest rooms and 86,000 square feet of space in 2018, the $115 million Vineyard Tower at Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center boosted resort inventory to 1,814 guest rooms and 490,000-plus square feet of space.
- Slated for 2020, Grapevine Main is a $105 million development tied to the new TEXRail line incorporating a 38,000-square-foot outdoor Plaza, 42,000-square-foot Rail Station and 120-room boutique Hotel Vin.
Arlington Ups Its Game with Live! by Loews Hotel and Texas Live! District
Before 2009, Arlington counted the Arlington Convention Center, original Six Flags Over Texas theme park, and Globe Life Park, home of MLB’s Texas Rangers, as its main competitive assets.
That was then. Completed that year, $1.5 billion AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, launched a multibillion-dollar investment wave that has Arlington standing tall in the competitive North Texas market.
The latest game-changing arrival is the Live! by Loews – Arlington, TX hotel. Accepting reservations for August 2019, this luxurious full-service, 14-story resort-style $150 million property anchors Arlington’s $250 million multi-venue Texas Live! entertainment and dining district.
“This marks a significant milestone for Loews Hotels & Co as we return to the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area after more than 30 years,” stated company Chairman and CEO Jonathan M. Tisch in a release. “To have the opportunity to combine our excellence in owning and operating hotels, with the vast expertise of partners like The Texas Rangers and The Cordish Companies, allows us to bring a one-of-a-kind lodging experience to the destination.”
According to a Loews spokesperson, the hotel’s location in the heart of Texas Live! will allow guests to “truly immerse themselves into the destination.”
Property highlights include:
- 300 guest rooms, including 23 suites.
- 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 950-capacity Arlington Ballroom; private rooftop terrace; and event lawn.
- Five signature F&B concepts, including steakhouse Cut & Bourbon; outdoor Arlington Clover Club mixology bar; and poolside bar and lounge Soak.
Opened in August 2018, the 200,000-square-foot Texas Live! campus features eight venues hosting indoor and outdoor events for up to 10,000 delegates. Another certain home run is the new $1.1 billion retractable-roof Globe Life Field, set to open for the Rangers’ 2020 season.
The recent $10 million conversion of the Arlington Convention Center into Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center created America’s largest venue for the red-hot esports market, offering 90,000-plus square feet of event space.
“These developments continue to solidify our place as a major entertainment hub and leader in both traditional and non-traditional sports,” said Chad Enloe, vice president of sales for the Arlington CVB. “Further elevating the opportunities for planners are the new independent breweries, retailers and restaurants emerging in our downtown.”
That redevelopment project, Urban Union, is transforming a downtown industrial neighborhood with group-capable draws including Legal Draft Beer Company and Tipsy Oak Ice House.
“The overall vision is to continue fostering the momentum, growth and pro-business environment which are collectively propelling Arlington into a leading competitive position as a leisure and business destination,” Enloe said.
Q&A with Bill Broker // Symposium Co-Coordinator, Balloon
Federation of America // Indianola, IA
Describe your program.
In January 2019, we inaugurated our annual conference for educating groups, municipalities and organizations on safely running hot air balloon events. The three-day symposium attracted 178 attendees from 38 states.
Why did you select Plano?
Plano has long supported hot air ballooning, using the sport to promote the city. Centrally located, Plano is also easy to reach, with DFW Airport and Dallas Love Field providing accessible hubs under 25 minutes by car from the city.
Which venues did you use?
Our entire program was at the Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park, based on meeting room sizes and available guest rooms. The hotel also offered convenient access to the dining and entertainment venues of the Boardwalk at Granite Park, Legacy Shops and Legacy West.
How would you describe your overall experience at the hotel?
Great. Their team was always present, accessible and approachable, including accommodating last-minute requests. Katie Wolf, their event manager, was most helpful before and during our event.
Would you book Plano and the hotel again?
We have already discussed bringing future events to the property.