Atlanta rose from the ashes of the Civil War to eventually become the robust, vibrant city it is today. By Donna Carter, March 31, 2010
The Georgian Terrace
“Hosting the 1996 Olympic Games really put Atlanta on the international map,” says Cida Barfield, president of Eastern Star Tours, an Atlanta-based DMC. “Furthermore, the legacy of the Games greatly elevated the city’s appeal as a meetings destination.”
In preparation for hosting the world’s greatest sports event, billions of dollars were spent on new hotels, restaurants, sports venues and improved transportation systems. Also added was Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre multi-purpose jewel built in the heart of downtown, plus Olympic Stadium — now Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. City growth continued following the Games and since 2005, at least $6-billion has been spent on new development. In fact, Atlanta is currently ranked among the U.S.’s largest and most popular convention sites. “The Olympic Games were definitely the catalyst that brought new life to the city,” says Barfield.
Atlanta has become a competitive force within the country’s meetings and conventions industry. Event coordinators for Montreal-based CEATI International, an organization that brings electricalutility industry professionals together, has plenty of experience planning Atlanta meetings.
In March, 2009, CEATI organized three separate work sessions there for groups ranging from 15 to 50. This fall, CEATI will plan three more sessions, again in Atlanta. “One of the key reasons we use it so often is accessibility,” the co-ordinators said. “Our organization is international and the city is a major hub conveniently reached by all of our members. Overall, we have received positive feedback from attendees, giving us no reason to switch venues. We’ve also had very good experiences with the city’s dining scene.”
“Atlanta has an awesome inventory of event venues,” says Barfield. Among the popular options she cites is Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. Here, 23,000 sq. ft. of event space includes the Oceans Ballroom, accommodating 1,000 for a sit-down dinner. Featuring two viewing windows into various animal habitats, one habitat is the size of a football field. “This is an amazing attraction and a guaranteed place to wow guests,” she says. A group event almost always includes a private tour of the facility.
The CNN Centre is also popular. Here, attendees can get a behind-the-scenes look at CNN’s world headquarters that includes witnessing newsroom activities and news anchors live on camera. The complex has event space in its central atrium for 400 (for receptions) or 200 (for a plated dinner). There is also dramatic reception space for 50 inside CNN’s giant globe of the world. Daytime group tours are available, but private functions are limited to evening events.
Unique to Atlanta is the 60,000-sq.-ft. World of Coca-Cola. Previously housed in a downtown building, the new site that opened in May, 2007, offers a multisensory experience, a 4-D theatre and more than 1,200 Coca-Cola artifacts from around the world. Groups of up to 1,500 can have exclusive use of the property for guided tours, receptions and plated dinners.
“For an outdoor tented event, the 30-acre Botanical Gardens and Zoo Atlanta are superb,” says Barfield. “Alternatively, a class-act place to hold an event or see a Broadway performance is the Fox Theatre.” The Fox has two opulent ballrooms and the theatre seats nearly 5,000. “Groups can buy the place out or simply book tickets to a regular performance,” she says.
A new addition to Atlanta’s entertainment scene is City Segway Tours. Using the latest generation of Segways (personal, self-balancing, two-wheel transportation devices), the company offers city tours and corporate team-building events. Following a brief orientation, groups are off on tours that take in the CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park, Midtown Atlanta and Georgia Tech, among other sites. Guided tours range from two to three hours and host 20 people.
Anyone who knows Atlanta knows the Georgian Terrace, the iconic city hotel that, in 2011, celebrates 100 years. This Beaux Arts, Parisian-style property, which recently underwent $11-million in renovations, has three elegant, multi-purpose ballrooms and among the city’s most spacious guestrooms. And the 326-room, all-suites property on the National Register of Historic Places also hosted the 1939 world-premiere reception for Gone With the Wind.
Combined with its three ballrooms, the Georgian Terrace has 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space for groups up to 350. “This is an ideal place to host a gala dinner before ushering a group directly across the street to a performance at Atlanta’s famous Fox Theatre,” says Barfield.
— Donna Carter is a Cobourg, Ont.-based freelancer writer.