Year in and year out, Dallas makes the roster as a host city for some of the nation’s top faith-based conferences. In the past year, Catalyst Dallas, Christian Leadership Alliance National Conference, D6 Conference and Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest, the country’s largest faith-based event, all took place in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex. And the city’s reputation as a leading destination for religious events continues to grow. “Many churches across the country look to leading churches found in the DFW area,” says Ron Hunter, conference director and co-founder of D6. “With some of the leading authors, pastors and staff members located here, it’s a win-win to have them be a part of what you are doing and be a part of what they are doing.” In addition to its culture of religious leadership, the city has a number of other features that make it a top pick, including, but certainly not limited to:
1. Its sheer size.
Texas is famous for its grandeur, and Dallas is the state’s third-largest metro area. To say options for hotels and convention space are abundant would be an understatement. The expansive metro area has more than 70,000 hotel rooms. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center (formerly Dallas Convention Center) is one of the nation’s largest, with more than 1 million square feet of convention space. Omni Dallas Hotel, which is connected to the convention center, opened in 2011. It added 1,001 rooms to downtown’s stock. And the city’s convention facilities aren’t limited to a single district—metro-area destinations including Arlington, Frisco and Irving contribute their own sizable facilities and churches to accommodate groups.
2. AT&T Stadium.
Arlington is home to what could be the most talked about addition to the city in a decade: the new AT&T Stadium (shown above), where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys play. Its function isn’t limited to hosting football games on Sundays in the fall. It’s also used for events, meetings, concerts and other sporting events, including international soccer matches and the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament. For large-scale arena meetings, it can fit up to 105,000 people with standing room.
3. Southwest’s expansion.
Southwest Airlines, which is based in Dallas and flies out of both Dallas Love Field Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International, acquired AirTran Airways in 2011 and has been adding flights in and out of the Metroplex ever since. The company plans to add 50 new destinations, with at least half of those in place in the next three years. Southwest also is expanding its presence in Houston and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Christian Leadership Alliance has chosen Dallas as the site for three consecutive CLA national conferences from 2014 through 2016,” says Scott Brown, CLA’s vice president of communications and lifelong learning. “We’ll be hosting CLA’s The Outcomes Conference from April 14-16, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion (above). We appreciate the property’s dedicated service to our attendees and to our organization. Dallas is not only a great destination for CLA conference attendees from across Texas and the southwestern United States, but Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport also allows easy access for leaders from across the nation and around the world to attend our events.”
Putting the “I” in BIG
Visitors are inserting themselves—literally—into a branding campaign developed by the Dallas CVB. Throughout the city are a series of “B” and “G” sculptures, and people stand between them to create the letter “I” and then share the photos on social media using #DallasBIG. More than 13,000 photos have been tagged with the hashtag on Instagram, many of them taken by event attendees visiting the city (and Rejuvenate Marketplace planners Mark Smith and Angie Ahrens, shown above). “This campaign recognizes the people in our backyard who seize opportunities to accomplish big dreams and make Dallas the successful metropolitan city it is today,” says Phillip Jones, the CVB’s president and CEO.
Deep in the Art of Texas
Dallas has the Cowboys, a rich oil history and dozens of shopping districts, but it’s also home to one of the best arts districts in the country. USA Today recently named the Dallas Arts District among the top 10 arts destinations in the United States. The area, which totals 19 acres of downtown real estate, claims notable museums with world-renowned collections and some of the nation’s best performing arts centers in terms of acoustics and design.
Ron Hunter, conference director and co-founder, D6
Best event venues: We have only used two, but Frisco Embassy Suites is first-class, and we currently use Watermark Community Church—great location, staff and facility. It’s a wow-factor experience.
Best hotels for groups: We have had tremendous service and results from any Hilton property.
One thing people don’t realize about Dallas: When they say everything is bigger in Texas, it includes the churches. It has more large churches per capita than anywhere else.
Favorite dining spot: The Frisco/Plano area and the Arlington Highlands Mall area. If you can’t find good eats there, you are not hungry enough.
Most underrated attraction: The highly rated educational institutions including all the Texas Universities, but especially the Christian universities, seminaries and colleges.
Photo credit: Academy of Country Music/Dick Clark Productions