As Texas Monthly observed in 1969, “the most important identifying characteristic of a native Texan is the desire to be one.” Craving authenticity defines the Texas spirit, which for groups, animates the Lone Star meetings experience across the board.
That’s the key message from Grapevine ahead of hosting MPI's 2020 World Education Congress this June. Under the banner of “Let’s Create Authentic Experiences,” this Metroplex group magnet, in constant evolution since 1843, has pledged to show delegates how authentic meetings and events are created.
Grapevine and its Metroplex neighbors are eminently qualified in this arena. From live entertainment and the performing arts to championship sports and themed festivals, the Metroplex produces true Texas events on a grand scale—and groups are always invited to the show.
As headquarters of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and the state’s $13 billion wine industry, booming Grapevine uncorks the fun year-round.
The Urban Wine Trail is an expanding collection of 10 winery tasting rooms concentrated in Historic Downtown Grapevine. Event-capable Messina Hof is the local outpost of one of the state’s most-awarded producers. Another trail member includes Delaney Vineyards & Winery, the largest vineyard in North Texas. Organized outings are provided by Grapevine Wine Tours.
[Related: Catch Up on MPI's World Education Congress 2019]
Event showcases include Grapefest, celebrating its 34th year this September as the largest wine festival in the Southwest. Grapevine also flexes its hosting muscles each November and December as the Christmas Capital of Texas, featuring 1,400-plus events over 40 days.
Grapevine’s Historic Main Street is center stage for group programs, including WEC 2020’s opening night celebration.
WEC 2020 is headquartered at Gaylord Texan Resort & Conference Center. The new $115 million Vineyard Tower, with 303 guest rooms and 86,000 square feet of space, boosted the massive resort’s inventory to 1,814 guest rooms and 490,000-plus square feet of space.
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Atrium at dusk, Grapevine; Credit: Grapevine CVB
The Glass Cactus at Gaylord Texan, an entertainment and nightlife option within the resort, features a major tequila selection, large dance floor and expansive two-tier deck overlooking Lake Grapevine.
Incorporating the Palace Theatre and the Lancaster Theatre, the restored 1940s Art Deco Palace Arts Theater offers more than 15,000 square feet of entertainment space that serves as an impressive offsite option.
While Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington have commanded the competitive Metroplex group market on infrastructure alone, Grapevine, just minutes from DFW International Airport, continues to heighten its standing.
Irving’s New Swagger
After years of sustained expansion, the cities of Irving, Plano and Frisco are also ascending as main stage players. Evolving past its former suburban-meets-corporate image, second-tier Irving is dressed for first-tier success.
Foremost in this new identity is the realization, after more than a decade of major investment, of its fully integrated, walkable convention campus.
The architecturally striking Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas first boosted Irving’s image with almost 100,000 square feet of versatile stacked space.
Next came the $173 million Toyota Music Factory. Anchoring this 250,000-square-foot entertainment campus, The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory gave Irving a new address for headline entertainment. Operated by Live Nation, this indoor/outdoor amphitheater can be flexibly configured for up to 8,000 people. Groups also have Texas Lottery Plaza, offering 50,000 square feet of outdoor event space, and an expanding restaurant and bar collection.
Completing the district in 2019, the $113 million, 350-room Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas offers 30,000 square feet of space plus a 10,000-square-foot event lawn.
Attracting larger and more diverse groups, these investments have also given Irving more character and soul.
The 350-room Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas opened in 2019, Irving; Credit: Courtesy Visit Irving
Other crowd-pleasers include the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, offering 84,600-plus square feet of space and unique venues including the lively OUTLAW Taproom and its outdoor patio.
For years, Plano was a relatively quiet suburb favored by planners for nearby Southfork Ranch.
Famed as the Ewing family home in TV’s Dallas!, this conferencing and events venue, offering 63,000 square feet of space, remains squarely on the group radar.
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Following a continuing multi-angled transformation including major corporate relocations, large-scale mixed-use development and a crop of new hotels and lifestyle attractions, groups now have many more reasons to book Plano.
Anchors include the Plano Event Center and the 299-room Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park, which is a group magnet offering 30,000 square feet of conference space.
Incorporating an artisanal food hall, beer garden, craft brewery and entertainment venue, multi-level Legacy Food Hall accommodates 2,500-capacity events. Constructed from reclaimed shipping containers, the 1,500-capacity courtyard features vendors such as Carlton Provisions BBQ and a 600-square-foot event stage with LED screen. Other rentals include the third-floor Tap Room.
The Plano Box Garden at event-capable Legacy Hall, Plano; Credit: Courtesy of Visit Plano
Groups also have waterfront dining, entertainment and shopping options at The Boardwalk at Granite Park.
Frisco Ups Its Game
Located 25 minutes north of Dallas, fast-growing Frisco continues to make major league strides in the group market.
The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America’s choice of Frisco for its new headquarters only underscores Frisco’s brand as “Sports City USA.”
Home to the largest number of professional teams in the nation, Frisco has gained competitive muscle by pouring billions into investments like The Star, which is the world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s attached to the 300-room Omni Frisco Hotel, and features numerous rental venues and tour packages.
Newly renovated 20,500-seat Toyota Stadium includes the event-capable National Soccer Hall of Fame.
National Soccer Hall of Fame, Frisco; Credit: Courtesy of Visit Frisco
The new 303-room Hyatt Regency Stonebriar is on track to open in Frisco this year, and will reportedly offer a 54,585-square-foot conference center with grand and junior ballrooms, plus breakout spaces.
Mesquite Gallops Ahead
Rodeo culture runs is deep in the heart of Mesquite, which has dominated this small city east of Dallas since the 1940s.
Designated the Rodeo Capital of Texas by the state legislature in 1993, Mesquite’s calling card is the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. Established in 1958, this storied event is staged at the Mesquite Arena. New owners Centurion American Development Group are currently finalizing a $2 million upgrade of the 5,500-seat multi-purpose landmark.
Cultural draws for visiting groups include The Mesquite Arts Center and Mesquite Symphony Orchestra.
Notable Group Venues in Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington
The DFW Metroplex has grown by over 1 million people since 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington statistical area alone counts more than 7,500,000 people. Expansive, too, are the wide-ranging group venues in these cities.
Dallas Art District
The Dallas Art District is the nation’s largest contiguous urban arts district, spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks. It features the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by Pritzker award-winning architects. Signature group venues include the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Museum of Art and Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Considered the “Jewel Box” of the District, the Crow Collection of Asian Art features the preeminent Asian works gathered by late real estate developer Trammel Crow and his wife Margaret. Other pieces are displayed at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, making for the largest art collection of any American hotel. The 1,606-room Dallas landmark is also a leading meetings player, offering 600,000-plus square feet of space.
From the Roaring ‘20s until the post-World War II era, Deep Ellum was a leading American center of vaudeville, blues and jazz. Following cycling popularity in the following decades, this vibrant arts, dining and entertainment neighborhood east of Downtown is here to stay. Choice group venues include legendary concert venue Trees Dallas, live music and event venue The Bomb Factory, and mesquite-fired barbecue joint Pecan Lodge. (Photo to right: Deep Ellum Pecan Lodge brisket, Dallas; Credit: Courtesy of Pecan Lodge)
Now the nation’s 13th largest city, Fort Worth features nearly 100 attractions within a 10-mile radius of Downtown, and three main group destinations within its weave of neighborhoods:
Sundance Square is Downtown Fort Worth's premier entertainment, dining, shopping and residential district. A signature group venue is Bass Performance Hall, an event-capable 2,056-seat concert venue featuring superb acoustics and sightlines and two exterior 48-foot limestone angels.
Stockyards National Historic District
Fort Worth’s legendary livestock headquarters, the Stockyards National Historic District, offers a herd of dining, entertainment, retail and heritage draws. Highlights include the famed twice-daily cattle drive; the world’s only year-round rodeo at the 1907 Cowtown Coliseum; and for country music, mechanical bull riding and more, Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honkytonk.
Set in a leafy park, the six world-class museums of The Fort Worth Cultural District include the event-capable Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Groups also have the 120-acre Will Rogers Memorial Center, historic 1958 Casa Mañana theater, and Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.
Since 2019, Arlington has undergone a $6.5 billion (and counting) transformation. Highlights of this include the following.
[Related Article: New and Expanded Convention Centers Heat Up the Texas Market]
Texas Live! opened in 2018 as Arlington’s dynamic new $250 million entertainment and dining district. Venues include the 5,000-capacity Arlington Backyard for outdoor events; multi-level Live! Arena for indoor entertainment; and multiple restaurant, bar and nightlife concepts.
Anchoring the campus, the luxurious $150 million, 300-room Live! by Loews – Arlington, Texas hotel offers 50,000 square feet of flexible space, including the 950-capacity Arlington Ballroom and event lawn.
Live! by Loews - Arlington, Texas; Credit: Courtesy of Arlington CVB
Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center
The former Arlington Convention Center is now the $10 million Esports Stadium Arlington & Expo Center, America’s largest esports venue with 90,000-plus square feet of event space.
The Latest and Greatest Openings and Renovations in the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex
In December 2019, VisitDallas announced the appointment of VisitPITTSBURGH President and CEO Craig Davis as the bureau’s new president and CEO, effective January.
The approximate $76 million expansion of Klyde Warren Park includes a 20,000-square-foot pavilion housing the new high-tech, interactive VisitDallas Experience Center. Slated for as early as 2022, the expansion includes additional green space and gathering areas.
Second behind New York in new hotel development, Dallas continues to add rooms at a record rate. Notable arrivals include Design District newcomer Virgin Hotels Dallas.
Opened in October, 14,000-seat Dickies Arena was originally conceived in 1996 as an expansion of the adjacent Will Rogers Coliseum. The $540 million venue can flexibly host concerts, conventions, expos and more. For billionaire donor Ed Bass, the public-private project will help promote Fort Worth as an “important city for business and culture.”
Discussions continue for updating the Fort Worth Convention Center. Prospective plans call for an estimated $380 million in upgraded and expanded exhibit and ballroom space. Plus, a new 1,000-room headquarter hotel and enhanced downtown connectivity.
Opened in March 2019, the new billion-dollar, 27-mile TEXRail commuter rail links downtown Fort Worth with DFW International Airport.
Globe Life Field, the new $1.1 billion retractable-roof home of MLB’s Texas Rangers, is set to open for the 2020 season. The franchise’s nearby former home, Globe Life Park, will be retained for events and special uses.
With its eclectic collection of restaurants, bars and boutiques, Urban Union is one of several initiatives transforming Downtown Arlington.
Targeting mid-2020, Grapevine Main is a $105 million development tied to the new TEXRail commuter rail line. Venues include Harvest Hall, offering diverse culinary and entertainment curations; Hotel Vin, a 120-room Marriott Autograph Collection boutique hotel; and 38,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.
Influenced by Spaghetti Western films, Texican Court is a new 152-room boutique located across from the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas and Toyota Music Factory. The retro-styled property offers 3,500 square feet of indoor space. Social spots include the Tequila Bar and Two Mules Cantina Restaurant.
Set alongside scenic Lake Carolyn, Water Street () is a new mixed-use development that includes dining, retail and park for special events.
Slated for late 2022, the PGA of America is relocating its Florida headquarters to Frisco. The move 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, with two championship golf courses and other facilities expected in the preceding months.
Future developments include a proposed 175-room Radisson hotel connected to the Plano Event Center.
Read Next: The North Texas Metroplex Continues to Flex Its Meetings Muscle with Constant New Developments and Growth
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