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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

From paleontology to weather predictions, Norman is tops

Courtesy Visit Norman

Already known as the home of the National Weather Center, the Oklahoma City suburb of Norman can also claim bragging rights to the state’s largest hotel and greenest conference center.

“The NCED Conference Center and Marriott Hotel, which has 996 rooms and suites, has just undergone a complete renovation,” said Stephen Koranda, executive director of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This undertaking led it to recently becoming the first property to earn the highest sustainable-travel certification offered by ECO  — Encouraging Conservation in Oklahoma — the state’s premier sustainable-travel program.”

With more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, the conference center and hotel can accommodate groups of 850.

In addition to using the facility for training, groups such as the 150-person Oklahoma Recreation and Park Society enjoy its resortlike amenities: a 60,000-square-foot fitness center with basketball and volleyball courts, indoor and outdoor tracks, an Olympic-size pool and on-site dining.

With 3,000 hotel rooms, Norman markets to associations as well as religious, educational and government groups of up to 1,000. Its hotels include the 150-room Holiday Inn Norman and the 125-room, full-service Sooner Legends Inn and Suites, which features Oklahoma Sooners memorabilia.

Norman’s newest full-service hotel is the 283-room Embassy Suites and Conference Center, which was built in 2008 and has 45,000 square feet of meeting space. Numerous associations and state and federal agencies, as well as a recent annual conference of 1,200 evolutionary biologists called Evolution 2011, have met there.

“This is a fantastic property that received the 2009 Connie Award, the Hilton Corp.’s highest honor for overall quality and service, as well as the 2010 designation as the world’s third-best Embassy Suites for customer service,” said Ryan Rogowski, sales manager, Norman CVB.

Of course, groups like the American Meteorological Society are drawn to the National Weather Center, located on the University of Oklahoma (OU) campus. The center can accommodate 250 for a banquet or reception in its atrium and 230 in the David L. Boren auditorium.

Many of the venues in this town of 110,000, 15 minutes from Oklahoma City, are linked to OU, including the Thurman J. White Forum Building, for groups of 540, and the 12,000-seat Lloyd Noble Center.

“The university’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, which will reopen this fall after a 
$2 million expansion, is a wonderful off-site facility for 200 people,” said Koranda. “It has over 12,000 permanent objects of art that range from French Impressionism to 20th-century American painting and sculpture.”