Not many communities can boast that they have been around about as long as America itself, but the coastal Virginia city of Hampton is proud to make that claim. This city of 135,000 dates to 1610 and has its origins in a band of brave European settlers. Locals say that makes Hampton the oldest continuously occupied English-speaking settlement in North America, even a bit ahead of the more famous Jamestown settlement.
“We have been here for 400 years, so our history aligns nicely with that of the country,” said Mary Fugere, the executive director of the Hampton Convention and Visitor Bureau.
This portion of southeast Virginia is often called Hampton Roads and includes such cities as Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Williamsburg. Hampton is considered the geographic center of the region. “We have the beautiful Chesapeake Bay here, so the city is gifted with lots of water,” said Fugere. “We also have a wonderful downtown waterfront.”
Air service is provided by two commercial airports: Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Newport News and Norfolk International Airport, across the harbor in Norfolk. Hampton is served by several Amtrak points along the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., and through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. Interstate 64 provides automobile access to the region.
Meeting Venue Variety
Meeting planners and attendees will find prime meeting space in Hampton at the state-of-the-art Hampton Roads Convention Center, located in a business district called Coliseum Central. With 344,000 square feet of convention and exhibit space, it’s no wonder promoters say they can handle anything from a large convention needing multiple breakout rooms to recreational vehicle or boat shows, prestigious social events and sports events. The center has 35 flexible areas, including a 103,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a grand ballroom with banquet seating for as many as 18,000 people.
There is additional meeting space nearby. The Embassy Suites Hotel at Hampton Roads Convention Center is adjacent to the center and has 4,600 square feet of meeting space of its own for rent. It also has a ballroom, a breakout space and a boardroom for more intimate meetings, plus 295 guest suites.
Hampton Coliseum, with its 11,000 seats, is part of Coliseum Central. “It’s an iconic arena that has been here since 1970,” said Fugere. “Essentially, it was the old convention center. There is a nice partnership between the two venues.” The coliseum has 84,000 square feet of space for large events and can handle 2,000 attendees for a banquet. Its Stars Theater can seat 6,000 in an intimate environment.
The Boo Williams Sportsplex, named for the prominent local basketball player, coach and youth advocate, is just 10 minutes from the hotel district. The 135,000-square-foot indoor event and sports center opened in 2008. Although sports are the prominent activity, the space can be rented for other purposes, too. “It’s a fun space, very versatile,” said Fugere.
The Virginia Air and Space Center can accommodate an intimate group in a library that overlooks Downtown Hampton’s seafront. “They have a lovely view of the waterfront from the observation deck, which can be arranged for a reception,” said Fugere. The center can provide areas to serve as many as 2,000 guests. While there for a meeting or an event, the attendees can also tour the fascinating museum or enjoy a screening in its 3-D Imax theater, which seats 300. “They do a lot of receptions and dinners utilizing all of that space in the museum,” said Fugere.
Another meeting spot to consider is the newly opened venue The Hampton in the city’s Hampton Phoebus District. It is in a historic space that dates to 1927. “They’ve taken a historic building and turned it into a modern venue for special events, receptions, parties, corporate dinners,” said Fugere. Planners can use it for seminars, corporate events, social gatherings and receptions.
Although not used frequently, the Hampton University’s Convocation Center is another location in Hampton with space for rent, said Fugere. It has 14,000 square feet of floor space, some breakout rooms, boardrooms and hospitality rooms.
Choose to Snooze
Visitors to Hampton can find whatever type of lodging they prefer, whether it is a cozy bed-and-breakfast, an extended-stay hotel, a large full-service conference hotel or a familiar hotel chain that is a little smaller but just right for the budget conscious.
All together, Fugere said, Hampton provides 2,200 guests rooms within the city. The Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina is in downtown Hampton and is seven minutes from the convention center. It has 173 guest rooms, 11,000 square feet of event space, 10 meeting rooms and two restaurants.
There are several smaller hotels that are convenient to the convention center. They include Hilton Garden Inn with 149 rooms, Courtyard by Marriott with 146 rooms and Springhill Suite by Marriott with 124 rooms.