In college towns, the student population often makes up a big chunk of the population and sometimes surpasses it. Either way, having thousands of students “also provides a lot of energy to your city; there’s always something going on,” said Andrew Schmidt, executive director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Greenville, North Carolina, home to East Carolina University.
A perpetually young population is always pumping new blood and new ideas into these Carolina college towns, and universities offer planners myriad resources for venues, lodging, speakers, entertainment and activities.
Greenville, North Carolina
Greenville is home to East Carolina University (ECU), which “gives a lot of cultural and social opportunities to our meeting attendees they might not normally have with a city of 100,000, from off-Broadway performances to Division 1 sporting events,” Schmidt said.
In addition, infusing the city with “an upbeat and fun atmosphere,” he said, the university provides plentiful resources for planners who can arrange for an expert speaker through ECU or schedule a tour and demonstration of the robotic surgery lab, for example.
ECU’s Murphy Center is one of the most interesting venues because it connects to both the 8,000-seat Minges Coliseum and the 50,000-seat Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, where the Pirates football team competes. On the center’s second floor, a 9,000-square-foot banquet hall and an adjoining terrace overlook the football field, where attendees can even go throw footballs or kick field goals. Separately, the stadium’s Club Level offers another 12,400 square feet of event and banquet space.
Groups can also host banquets on Minges’ arena floor, book the 1,488-capacity historic Wright Auditorium and use the challenge course at the North Recreational Complex, where groups can canoe, kayak and fish on the six-acre lake and play the 18-hole disc golf course.
In the medical district a couple of miles west of the main campus, the university’s East Carolina Heart Institute’s conference center has a tiered theater-style auditorium for 250 and a large multipurpose room that can be divided into four smaller conference rooms. Across the street, ECU’s Eastern Area Health Education Center has several meeting spaces, including a lecture hall that can seat more than 150 or be split into three rooms.
Lodging is another resource ECU provides meeting groups. ECU has 300 dorm rooms, Schmidt said, and for certain events, such as the United Methodist Church annual conference that comes to town every summer, the ability to offer a dorm room for $25 a night is invaluable.
The Greenville Convention Center campus includes the 57,000-square-foot convention center as well as three hotels — a Hilton, a Hampton Inn and a Holiday Inn — that offer more than 400 guest rooms and an additional 27,000 square feet of function space.