Greenwood, S.C., is a small Southern town that thinks big. In the past six years, this city of 25,000 has created a cultural arts district, refurbished its downtown streets and established a convention and visitors bureau.
“We want to make ourselves known as a charming, affordable town centrally located between Atlanta and Charlotte that is perfect for associations, as well as the SMERF [social, military, educational, religious and fraternal] markets,” said Lindsay Burns, director of sales, Greenwood Regional Tourism and Visitors Bureau.
Greenwood’s 630 hotel rooms can accommodate groups of up to 300, although most of the city’s meeting business is groups of 150 and fewer, including numerous board meetings.
In addition to new streetscaping, restaurants and retail shops, downtown Greenwood has a new arts district that is home to the Arts and Visitors Center at the Federal Building. Built in 1911, this renovated facility is popular for meetings of up to 250 people; it can hold 200 for receptions and 120 for banquets, as well as 150 outdoors in a courtyard area.
“The South Carolina Heritage Corridor held its opening reception there last year for 200 people,” said Burns. “And in January, the arts center hosted the South Carolina City and County Managers’ two-and- one-half-day winter meeting.”
The city and county managers group moved down the street for a dinner and reception at Sundance Gallery, a photography gallery in a renovated downtown building. Owned by internationally exhibited photographer Jon Holloway, the gallery provides a photographic backdrop for 200-person indoor events, as well as outdoor courtyard space for 50.
Several limited-service hotels have undergone renovations, among them the 76-room Fairfield Inn and Suites Greenwood and the 94-room Holiday Inn Express, where the South Carolina Economic Development Institute will have a small meeting in May.
The area’s newest and largest meeting facility is the Little River Multicultural Complex in nearby Hodges. Its gymnasium can accommodate 1,500 people for an assembly or 600 for a banquet. There is also a dining hall for 175; six classrooms for 60 and a conference room.
Lakes dot the landscape of the region, including 11,000-acre Lake Greenwood, home to the 914-acre Lake Greenwood State Recreation Area and the Drummond Environmental Education and Conference Center.
“This is a scenic lakeside venue that can hold 272 people for receptions or 126 people seated,” said Burns. “The South Carolina Product Development Study held a community forum for 60 people there last year.”
The mild climate also draws sports enthusiasts. Team building and tournaments will be added to the mix in early 2011 when the 3,500-student Lander University opens a downtown sports and wellness complex.
“This new facility will include a pool as well as soccer and baseball fields, and we will be marketing it to both meeting groups and sports groups,” Burns said.