Shreveport Opens Its First Convention Center - 2006-03-15

Northern Louisiana can finally provide the meetings industry with a large event facility, thanks to the opening of the Shreveport Convention Center in January 2006.

And the region can provide housing for groups using the facility too: The center's opening will be followed a few months later by the debut of a headquarters hotel.

The convention center —which boasts a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, and 10 breakout rooms totaling about 15,000 square feet — is the state's second-largest (after New Orleans' Morial Center). A 316-room Hilton is slated to open in November, though details were not available.

"A lot of state associations meet in the southern part of the state due to the lack of a large facility in the north," said Debbi Foshee, director of sales and marketing at the Shreveport center. "We have now solved that problem.

"Also, a lot of companies and associations in the surrounding area are looking for alternative destinations, and Shreveport is in a good location to serve not only Louisiana but also Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and even Tennessee."

In addition, she said, "many groups that have been affected by hurricanes, not only this year but in previous years, are becoming a little gun-shy about booking on the Gulf Coast. We present a new option."

The Shreveport center's newness, and it not being on the Gulf Coast, were in fact major considerations for BWI Companies Inc. The Nash, Texas-based firm also liked the facility's size, as it allowed the group to consolidate its two shows into one, which will be held in Shreveport this September.

Mark Fomby, marketing manager at BWI, said the group had been looking for a regional location more central than Texas. And, he said, "the Gulf Coast has been our secondary show site for the past several years, but our luck with the hurricane season coinciding with our show timing forced us to look for alternatives."

Potential customers of the convention center may find themselves marketed to in an unusual way. The building's marketing team has created "Claude's Awesome Adventure," a blog that appears to be written by Claude, a crawfish cartoon character representing a meeting planner from New Jersey on a site inspection in Shreveport.

Among the impressions Claude relayed in his writings: "This morning, I walked over to the Convention Center to look at the exhibit space, ballroom and meeting rooms. Wow!"