San Antonio is sparkling with new life as a number of capital projects come onboard within the city. For meetings and conferences, this means a memorable meeting location that offers everything from a revamped Henry B. González Convention Center to recreated urban spaces for outdoor special events at Hemisfair.
Henry B. González Convention Center Sparkles After Large Capital Improvement Project
During a recent visit, I was able to get an insider’s view of all the changes taking place at the city’s convention center. Sitting on the historic River Walk in downtown, the Henry B. González Convention Center is a short distance from numerous hotels and attractions, but its real appeal is the recent $325 million expansion. The expansion marks the largest capital improvement project in the City of San Antonio’s history and increases the footprint of the center to 1.6 million square feet.
“Today, we are celebrating the beginning of a new era for the convention and hospitality sector of our local economy,” said Mayor Ivy R. Taylor during the grand opening celebration. “While this fabulous new facility impressively transforms the San Antonio skyline, it is only the beginning of the more far-reaching transformation that our entire community is experiencing. Infusing new life to the southeast portion of downtown, this project encourages people to discover the amazing things that are happening right here in the heart of our city.”
The project included a new addition to the east of the center, which will allow for the demolition of the original structure that was built in 1968. Neighboring Hemisfair, will expand into the space of the original structure and will offer outdoor event space. Hemisfair originally was part of the site for the 1968 World’s Fair and now a non-profit group called Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation will transform a 92-acre portion of the area into a local gathering spot. It currently includes a children’s playground and other outdoor spaces, and has future plans for several years of additional growth to include even more outdoor urban spaces.
The convention center now offers 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, 86,500 square feet of column-free multi-purpose space and 70 meeting spaces including divisible breakout rooms. It’s also home to Texas’ largest ballroom.
However, it’s the 54,000-square-foot Stars at Night Ballroom that is truly breathtaking and was spectacularly showcased during the unveiling celebrations. The room was decked in the theme ‘earth’ full of florals and trees that were topped with sparkling lights that indeed looked like stars overhead. For a unique space that showcases the life and personality of Texas, this is the place to hold your meeting. Overall, the new center is truly impressive and oozes sleek, modern touches and accents along with high-tech upgrades throughout the facility.
Where to Stay & Meet
One of the hottest meeting hotels directly on the riverwalk is The Westin Riverwalk. The hotel is just enough off the hustle and bustle of the more crowded sections of the Riverwalk to have a quieter feel, but is still accessible to the dining and nightlife that the Riverwalk is known for. The hotel itself offers 473 guest rooms and suites and more than 26,000 square feet of meeting space. It also features Starwood’s Planner’s Edge for on-site specialty events as well, ranging from food and wine pairing events to an organic food experience.
When it comes to dining experiences at the Westin, planners can also take advantage of the San Antonio River setting and launch a dinner cruise from the hotel. It’s a truly memorable experience and offers a unique view of the area. Rio San Antonio Cruises is a great place to start when looking for dining cruise options.
Down the river from the Westin you’ll find the La Vista Terrace. This unique off-site event space offers amazing views of the historic Alamo and the city skyline. You can enjoy cocktails and the view outside on the terrace itself or utilize the sleek modern indoor space with classic Texas interior details. The venue offers 2,400 square feet of indoor space and a 2,000-square-foot outdoor terrace.
Meeting groups can venture outside the Riverwalk area into Downtown San Antonio as well. Make a stop at La Villita and Market Square. The La Villita Historic Arts Village offers a taste of local artists and can be utilized as an outdoor event space. For the shoppers in the group, and to get a flavor of the energy and flair of old Mexico that is found throughout the city, make a stop at the historic Market Square. Stop at Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery for their Mexican panes dulces and Mexican hot chocolate. You won’t want to miss either.
A Taste of San Antonio
The flavors of San Antonio are varied and eclectic, and groups can take full advantage in a variety of settings from restaurants to bakeries.
For the true food connoisseur, or for a range of teambuilding options, groups can make their way to the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio. Located in the Pearl neighborhood, a mixed-used space of retail, dining and green spaces, the institute allows groups the option of a mini-boot camp and or one-day workshops and more.
While in the Pearl neighborhood, enjoy a brew or a meal at the Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery. Located in what was once the Pearl’s Brewhouse, built in 1894, the restaurant offers coastal classics of the chef’s upbringing in Galveston married with the comfort of Southern cuisine. Groups can take advantage of semi-private dining in a former silo.
The Guenther House also offers a peek into San Antonio’s history and delicious eats. Built by miller Carl Hilmar Guenther in the 1860s, the house showcases the rich history of the family and what was to become Pioneer Flour Mills. Now the house serves up a wide array of treats, including a variety of pastries and delicious biscuits. For private events, there are indoor and outdoor venues, but the Roof Garden is truly a gorgeous site that offers views of the lush area overlooks the San Antonio River.
San Antonio Hill Country Resorts
The city of San Antonio is located on the southern edge of Texas Hill Country. A short drive from downtown, meeting groups have numerous options to take advantage of in the area. One option includes the La Cantera Resort and Spa. The resort offers more than 115,000 square feet of flexible indoor/outdoor event space including the 17,000 square-foot San Antonio Grand Ballroom. A gem of the resort will be the 17,000-square-foot Loma de Vida Spa and Wellness center, a true oasis that is immersed in the natural beauty of the region. Set for opening this fall, the spa offerings great options for group VIPs, such as suites with private decks, gardens and private treatment spaces.
With so many great venues to enjoy and explore, it’s no wonder San Antonio beckons groups to return again and again.
by Ashley Wright
(Editors Note: Ashley Wright, Contributing Editor for Convention South, recently visited San Antonio, Texas to view some of their new developments. Above is her account of the visit.)