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Arkansas Meeting Guide: Big business in Northwest Arkansas

Courtesy Bentonville CVB

With three cities within 10 to 15 minutes of one other, northwest Arkansas has plenty for meetings.

“We offer proximity and cost-efficient services,” said Rachel Eichenberger, convention sales manager for the Rogers Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have the feel of large cities, but we are small towns.”

Although close to each other, each town is distinct. Rogers can claim the John Q. Hammons Convention Center. Bentonville has bragging rights to the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas and its more than 20,000 students.

All are easy to reach off Interstate 540, and planners often take advantage of the quick drive, holding meetings in one town and visiting others for off-site excursions.

‘Where Possible Lives’
Before being dubbed “The Natural State,” Arkansas was “The Land of Opportunity,” and Rogers’ slogan, “Where Possible Lives,” keeps the latter nickname alive.

There are a lot of possibilities in the John Q. Hammons Convention Center; built in 2007, its ballroom can be used to its full 41,550 square feet or in sections as small as 2,405 square feet. Additional flexible space is across the corridor on each side of the ballroom.

The attached 400-room Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas Hotel, Spa and Convention Center has its own event space, which can range in size from 252 square feet to 11,400 square feet. In 2007, the property added a spa tower with guest rooms, a spa and a salon.

This year, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal ranked the hotel highest in the area in terms of room revenue for the seventh consecutive year.

Shopping is a popular diversion, Eichenberger said. Visitors these days are also taking the trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. “It seems to be a really good off-site activity,” she said.

As far as novel off-site properties in Bentonville, the Crystal Bridges museum joins Avondale Chapel and Gardens, a renovated Victorian-style home and the Museum of Native American History.

Demand for event space is high. And no wonder. Bentonville is the corporate headquarters for Walmart and home to more than 1,200 suppliers and vendors that serve the retail giant.

For convention space, Bentonville relies on the 8,000 square feet in the Doubletree Suites and Convention Center. But when 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville opens in the first quarter of 2013, the area will gain 12,500 square feet of event space. Situated within walking distance of the Crystal Bridges, the green hotel will offer 104 guest rooms, a restaurant that features local ingredients and a fitness center. The small hotel chain is known for its curated exhibitions, installations and live art events.