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Carolinas: Fayetteville waves its flags proudly

Photo courtesy Fayetteville Area CVB

With its designation by Time magazine as the nation’s most pro-military city and its self-declaration as a military sanctuary for soldiers, Fayetteville, N.C., is a natural for military reunions. To sweeten the deal, the city of 200,000 is also headquarters for the largest military installation in the United States.

“As the home of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, we have so many attractions and amenities perfect for military groups,” said John Meroski, president/CEO of the Fayetteville Area CVB.  “We are working to continually grow this market, especially for Vietnam veterans.”

Military groups of all eras are drawn to Fayetteville’s Airborne and Special Operations Museum, which explores the history of the elite forces and provides 5,000 square feet of banquet space and a lobby for parties of up to 375 people.

The city’s newest military attraction is expected to open across the street from the museum on July 4, 2011. The 18-acre North Carolina State Veterans Park will honor North Carolina veterans and will include a visitors center, a 150-seat amphitheater and a community plaza.

“It will also be connected to Fayetteville Freedom Memorial Park, which is an outdoor area great for military activities,” said Meroski.

All kinds of meeting groups are drawn to the events at Freedom Park and to the 2,000 plants and flowers at the city’s Cape Fear Botanical Garden. A new 28,500-square-foot visitors pavilion that can accommodate 400 for banquets or 1,000 for receptions will open there in spring 2011.

This Cape Fear River town also markets to state and regional associations, sports tournaments and religious groups.

“We have venues for almost any sport, but softball and soccer are very strong here,” Meroski said. “We had 2,000 athletes and their families here over three weekends this winter for the Triangle FC Friendlies Invitational Soccer Tournament at our Jordan Soccer Complex.”

With 600 places of worship, among the highest number per capita in the United States, Fayetteville also draws many religious events, like the 2,000-member United Methodist Church Youth Pilgrimage held at the Crown Center each November.

The Crown Center is the city’s largest meeting facility. The complex includes the 13,500-seat Crown Coliseum, the 60,000-square-foot Expo Center and a 5,500-seat arena.

Among the city’s convention hotels are the 289-room Holiday Inn Bordeaux, with 30,000 square feet of meeting space and the 225-room Holiday Inn I-95 and the 156-room Doubletree Hotel, each with 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

Meeting planners will find many of these properties recently refurbished. Citywide, in the past two years, more than $15.5 million has been spent to renovate eight hotels and build two new limited-service hotels.

“We have more than 5,500 hotel rooms that are a great value at $70 to $100 per night on average,” said Meroski.

Thirteen themed driving trails that cover 250 years of American history further reinforce the city’s patriotic air.

“Our driving trails are tailored to entertain visitors with a wide range of interests, from the Civil War to gardens to African American heritage,” Meroski said. “They can also be customized for individual interests, so all types of meeting groups can enjoy them.”

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