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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Alabama: Back Alley beckons in Montgomery

Courtesy Montgomery Area CVB

When the Hyundai National Dealer Meeting was held in Montgomery this spring, this group of 1,200 attendees found a new entertainment district and a newly renovated convention center with a new 342-room hotel attached to it.

“They made use of all our new facilities, including the Montgomery Convention Center’s 22 meeting rooms and 75,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and stayed at a dozen properties, including the new Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa, which has 30,000 square feet of meeting space,” said Keely Smith, director of sales, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce CVB. “They also held a Sonata Road Rally and dined at the new downtown entertainment area known as the Alley,” she said.

The city made sense for Hyundai’s meeting, as Montgomery is home to the company’s only U.S. manufacturing plant.

Other groups have taken note of Montgomery’s recent downtown renovation: The city recently hosted the spring meeting of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, which gave the city an opportunity to show its attributes to 75 planners, as well as suppliers from 150 cities and companies.

Montgomery typically targets meetings of 500; but each year, it goes far beyond that when its largest convention, the Air Force Information Technology Conference, arrives in town.

“We are the home of the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, and each August, this 5,800-person convention basically takes over the city,” said Smith. “They make use of the convention center, as well as every hotel in a 100-mile radius.”

Alabama’s capital has some 7,000 hotel rooms including the 237-room Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center, with 15,000 square feet of meeting space; the 86-room Hampton Inn and Suites; and the 97-room Hilton Garden Inn, with 2,500 square feet of meeting space.
Among the city’s new downtown special event venues is Alley Station in the Alley.

“It is an upscale, contemporary site that can accommodate 750 people, and we also have the more traditional 129 Coosa, which can hold 200 for a reception,” Smith said. “The Capital City Club, a private downtown dining club, also provides groups of up to 500 with formal, glamorous reception space.”

The National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners held its welcome reception at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, which is located on  the 350-acre grounds of Blount Cultural Park; the park  is also home to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the sixth-largest Shakespeare theater in the world.

Montgomery has long been involved in the struggle for civil rights. Groups can visit many of the sites that played roles in the quest for equality, including the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Parsonage, the Rosa Parks Museum and Library, and the Civil Rights Memorial and Center, which pays tribute to those who gave their lives during the movement.

“Although an off-site event or reception of 100 people can be held at the Civil Rights Memorial and Center, groups primarily visit these attractions during free time or as part of scheduled activities,” said Smith.