Editorial: LeConte Center to make Pigeon Forge a major player in convention business

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 11:50 PM

The city of Pigeon Forge will be able to play with the big boys come September when its sparking new LeConte Center opens. The city has been able to attract millions of visitors each year, but most of the big conventions head elsewhere because the city didn’t have facilities big enough to attract them. That changes this fall.

Industrial Development Board members and local business owners met at the construction site last week for a tour. Leon Downey, director of the city’s tourism department, and design consultant Mike Wilds led the tour of the north part of the building. The south end is still under heavier construction. The tour revealed a clean work site with rooms that looked close to completion.

There are three 2,000-square-foot multipurpose rooms on the north end of the building, which can be divided into six 1,000-square-foot rooms. On the south end are four 1,000-square-foot rooms divisible into eight 500-square-foot rooms. The main exhibit site, LeConte Hall, is 100,500 square feet, with an operable wall connected to the adjacent Greenbrier Hall that can be removed for a total space of 112,500 square feet.

“You can have a crowd of over 12,000 people, and nobody’s going to be more than 137 feet from the stage,” Wilds said. “It’s going to feel very intimate.”

The city doesn’t necessarily want all types of meetings. For example, corporate gatherings with break-out sessions are not really what Pigeon Forge is after.

Already it has an impressive slate of commitments, including a trade show this September and the National Quartet Convention starting in 2014. With thousands of lodging rooms plus the amenities Pigeon Forge is famous for, the city is poised to be a major player in the convention game.