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A tale of two Texarkanas

Photo courtesy Texarkana CVB

State lines sometimes stir friendly competition. So it is not so surprising that construction crews in the two Texarkanas — the one in Arkansas and the one in Texas — are in a race to see who can finish their hotel and convention center first.

Late this year, the Texarkana region, population 144,000, will be home to two very similar hotel/convention center complexes one mile apart, one in Texas, the other in Arkansas. The region now relies on its fairgrounds for meeting space.

Ground was broken in March for the Texarkana Convention Center and Hilton Garden Inn in Texarkana, Texas.

Built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, it will include a hotel with 150 rooms, a restaurant and a convention center for groups of up to 1,000.

In October, work began on the $18 million Texarkana Arkansas Convention Center and Holiday Inn Hotel. The 137-room hotel and convention center, also for groups of up to 1,000, is being built by a private company, which also plans to build a water park on the site.

The Texas convention center project is a public/private venture.

The job of marketing the new facilities to the wider world goes to Nicholas Vasseghy, director of the Texarkana Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau represents the region on both sides of the state line that splits what is one city to visitors.

Vasseghy sees the arrival of two convention centers nearly simultaneously as an opportunity, another way to play up the presence of the state line that invisibly divides the city.

The additional hotel rooms brought by the projects will be welcome and will help alleviate a midweek occupancy rate that reaches 140 percent, Vasseghy said.

The area’s 2,000 hotel rooms are kept full Monday through Wednesday by state and federal government business.

Vasseghy’s goal will be to help fill the hotels and convention centers on weekends, when room inventory is more plentiful. He sees ways of playfully using the two centers’ similar size and proximity to attract parallel but opposing organizations. “We could have the Republican convention in one and the Democrats in the other, or Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party,”