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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Virginia: Conventioneers migrate to Chesapeake

Courtesy Chesapeake CVB

Sam Moore Sr. is from Chesapeake, Va., located in the Hampton Roads metro area. But that is not why Moore appreciates the city’s meeting services. As director of logistics for the Virginia Baptist State Convention, Moore helps select the site for the annual event.

Finding a suitable location is no easy feat. The convention draws up to 1,500 people per day.

Some attend workshops, and as many as 500 attend a keynote event. There’s a vendor exhibit area, where attendees can purchase items such as stained-glass windows, Sunday hats, dresses and suits. Because attendees income levels vary, they need accommodations that suit either their own or their church’s budget.

Chesapeake, in southeast Virginia, met the group’s needs on all levels, but its main attraction is the Chesapeake Conference Center, Moore said.

The center, which opened in 1997 and underwent enhancements in 2008, handles functions of up to 2,500 people.

Located 15 minutes from Norfolk International Airport, the center has varied meeting spaces, from a 20,000-square-foot ballroom to a 288-square-foot conference room that seats up to 20. In between are the Ward Ballroom C and D, each 5,500 square feet.

The layout makes it easy to get around, said Kim Murden, convention and tourism director for the Chesapeake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Moore also likes the city’s accommodations. The full-service 226-room Marriott Chesapeake, opened in 2008, is next to the center and has 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Moore used the hotel as his event headquarters.

There are also smaller properties near the conference center, including the SpringHill Suites Chesapeake in Greenbrier. If it’s a nice day, attendees can walk to neighboring hotels. Nevertheless, Moore counts on church vans to shuttle guests in case of inclement weather.

The center, he added, is in the hub of Chesapeake, near the Greenbrier shopping district and chain restaurants.

Visitors to Chesapeake also enjoy dining in the second-floor meeting space at the Amber Lantern Restaurant on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Many take to the waterways in kayaks for off-site excursions or learn about the area’s history, which dates to 1636.

Murden said Chesapeake is primarily a drive-to destination for groups from the Washington, D.C., area; Maryland; Virginia; and the Carolinas. As for the types of meetings, “we tend to run the spectrum,” she said. “I think we are able to find a niche for most groups.”

The city worked well for the Virginia Baptist State Convention, which held its first event there in 2008. “Everyone loved it so much, they said, ‘Let’s come back next year,’” Moore said. “We’ve never done that before.”

In 2011, the group will go to Williamsburg; in 2012, to Fredericksburg. But, come 2013, they’re headed back to Chesapeake.