VeloCity September 2021

CVB LOOKING FOR SOME ‘HOMETOWN HEROES’ TO HELP BRING CONVENTIONS TO OKC

If you are a local business leader who will be attending a regional or national convention or conference sometime soon, officials with Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau would love to speak with you. Mike Burns, who serves as the CVB’s vice president for sales and services, is looking for what he refers to as “hometown heroes” to help the CVB recruit conferences to Oklahoma City now that the city’s new convention center has been built. Burns said every time one of Oklahoma City’s hometown heroes travels to another city for a business conference, he would ask them to think about who they can find that would want to talk with them about their industry’s particular event and the chance to host it in Oklahoma City. “If you are sitting in a board meeting or committee meeting and you know the organizers, just raise your hand and say, ‘Hey, I know our community would love to look at your meeting or your convention. What do we need to do to at least have a conversation?’ Just open the door an inch, and we can take it from there,” Burns said. Since the Oklahoma City Convention Center officially opened last January after more than two years of construction, the 500,000-square-foot , state-of-the-

art facility has already welcomed several conventions to Oklahoma City this year and more are on the way. CVB President Zac Craig echoed Burns’ earlier sentiments regarding the impact Oklahoma City businesspeople can have on helping attract conventions, conferences and meetings to Oklahoma City. “It goes without saying that being the stewards of this new infrastructure, the ability to extend our reach to brand-new customers for Oklahoma City is really a great opportunity now as we work internally with the CVB sales team and externally with the community and our stakeholders. There are people from various business sectors who live right here in Oklahoma City that we have never been able to attract exposure for by hosting one of their national conventions in the past. And now we have the opportunity to do so,” Craig said. Craig noted the various meeting sites that Oklahoma City can offer associations and industry groups that may be looking for future convention destinations, specifically mentioning the Bennett Event Center at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds; USA Hall of Fame Stadium, where the NCAA Women’s College Softball World Series is played; Champion Convention Center on the Meridian Avenue corridor; and the new Oklahoma City Convention Center.

“We have a lot of new assets now that we have never had, and so when a planner or somebody comes to us, we can strategically place people where they need to be,” Craig said. Not only does Oklahoma City have several spaces to hold just about any large conference or meeting , but it also boasts many high-quality attractions that can help woo meeting planners to Oklahoma City. One attraction that has not officially opened but will in a few weeks, the First Americans Museum near downtown, has already played a major role in getting a national tribal youth association to make a verbal commitment to hold a future conference in Oklahoma City. “When you think of memorable experiences, whether it’s personal travel or convention related, you can either do a reception in the four walls of a standard ballroom or you can go to this incredible Hall of the People at the brand-new First Americans Museum. It’s a night-and- day experience and elevates the total experience and perception of Oklahoma City,” Craig said. Another asset the CVB is selling to convention planners about Oklahoma City is its accessibility, in particular the availability of the new streetcar for conference attendees and the proximity to the various entertainment districts in and around the downtown area.

“If you think about our destination – the convenience, the uniqueness of our districts – that’s a huge selling point. And the fact that we can say, ‘By the way, we can provide free transportation to your people, whether they use the streetcar or not. But it’s there and becomes very attractive to planners,” Burns said. “The big thing that we can sell to any group is that there are more restaurants you can walk to or get to by streetcar in this community than almost any city I have been to. It is so convenient , and there is such a variety. And that appeals to a lot of different groups,” he said. If you are somebody who would be willing to make contact with the meeting planner or an official with your respective national organization, there are various resources you can access or pass along by going to the Meet in OKC page at visitokc.com. “From city leadership and business owners to our local residents, we have already received an outpouring of assistance and proactive support. We are grateful and appreciative for the referrals they have already made or will make in the future,” Craig said.

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