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Everything’s coming up roses in Tyler

Courtesy Texas Tourism

Country singer Lynn Anderson never promised you a rose garden in her hit song from the ’70s, but Tyler, Texas, does. And not just any rose garden.

West of downtown, adjacent to Tyler’s main meeting complex, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden spans 14 acres. With 32,000 rosebushes representing more than 600 varieties, Tyler’s is the largest municipally owned rose garden in the country. It’s also one of 24 All-American Rose Selections trial sites in the United States, so there is always something blooming, although the roses are most prolific in early October and in April.

Given its title as “Rose Capital of the United States,” it’s only natural that roses and the rose garden often play a part in the east Texas city’s meeting business.

“Every meeting group that books sleeping rooms gets live miniature rosebushes to use as centerpieces or for raffle drawings,” said Shari Rickman, vice president and general manager/conventions for the Tyler CVB.

Rose arrangements are often given to VIPs, such as speakers, and are waiting for them in their rooms upon arrival.

Roses are often worked into meeting themes, said Rickman. A group of motorcycle policemen used a Western theme and used yellow roses for the Yellow Rose of Texas, she said.

Embroidered roses are given to all meeting participants, who generally wear them on their name badges. When CVB staff attend meetings-industry tradeshows, they take along Tyler Candle Company’s rose-scented candles to add fragrance to their booth. “They smell us before they see us,” said Rickman.

Meeting attendees often gaze upon the roses in the Rose Garden, the city’s top tourist attraction, when attending a meeting in the Rose Garden Center. During breaks, they can wander through the garden, or some groups take guided tours with a master gardener. The garden provides the picture-perfect backdrop for a reception.

Roses all around
The Rose City Complex encompasses the gardens, the Harvey Convention Center, the Rose Garden Center and Museum, the East Texas State Fairgrounds, and a baseball field and a football stadium.

The convention center, with 34,000 square feet of meeting space and the 30,000-square-foot Rose Garden Center and Museum, can be used separately or combined for larger meetings. The convention center’s largest space is a 17,632-square-foot banquet hall; its South Hall is 8,449 square feet. For trade shows, the 6,600-square-foot lobby and atrium area can be put to work.

Next door, the Rose Center is “the gateway to the rose garden,” said Todd Lestage, visitor facilities administrative manager.

Its three meeting rooms overlook the rose garden.

“We have a lot of private events here such as weddings, baby showers, but we also have business expos and trade shows,” said Lestage. “The size of the meeting plays a big factor in choosing between the two different meeting facilities. Large events rent both when possible. They share a parking lot.”

Availability, of course, is another factor.

“Weekends are often filled with trade shows, gun shows, car and antique shows, and such,” said Lestage. “Recurring yearly events make up about 60 [percent] to 70 percent of our business,” he said.

Given the demand on the complex, it is no surprise that Tyler is pondering a new convention center and hotel.

“We just completed a feasibility study, which concluded that we need a convention center with a connecting hotel,” said Rickman.

The hotel would have 200 guest rooms and 27,000 to 30,000 square feet of meeting space. The project could be completed within the next two to three years, Rickman said.

“We are currently in discussions of what brand hotel,” she said. “The numbers came down that we have to get this done. The hotel brand selected will determine its location,” she said.