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Interior Conferences and Meetings

Small- and mid-sized venues in Fairbanks


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Guests at the Alaska Miners Association Biennial Conference watch a presentation at the Carlson Center Pioneer Room in March 2018.

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

 

Fairbanks has enough meeting venues that it takes more than a day just to walk through all the ballrooms, reception areas, and board rooms.  

Fairbanks-area meeting planners know this because they spent nine hours on a bus tour this March getting a feel for a sample of the region’s venues; tourism and meeting promotion organization Explore Fairbanks holds at least one of these tours every year.

This year, along the way, the bus stopped at twelve meeting venues. That’s by no means a comprehensive tour, says Helen Renfrew, director of meetings and conventions at Explore Fairbanks.

“It’s kind of like the top-of-mind places for accommodating and/or meeting and convention space, because we can’t see everything Fairbanks has to offer over one full day,” she says.

For those who want their own look at the venues, Explore Fairbanks sets up customized meeting venue walkthroughs for prospective meeting planners, usually at no or little cost to the meeting planner. About ten of these ad-hoc tours take place each year. The organization also helps meeting planners comparison shop between venues by inviting venues to bid on requests for proposals created by meeting planners with help from Explore Fairbanks.

Fairbanks lacks a large convention center like Anchorage’s Dena'ina Center, so it’s hard for the city to host large conventions of more than 450 attendees, Renfrew says. But the city hosts a few large conventions and hundreds of small-to-medium meetings each year. Over the last five years, Fairbanks hosted an average of 313 meetings per year. Each year, these meetings used an average of 27,480 hotel room nights and directly contributed $9.2 million to the local economy, according to Explore Fairbanks numbers.

Here’s a look at a few meeting venues featured in the March tour. For more information about these and other venues, see the Explore Fairbanks forty-page meeting guide at explorefairbanks.com/meetings/meeting-planner-guide.

 

Westmark Hotel

Meeting space: More than 11,800 square feet of meeting space year-round; more than 17,000 square feet in winter

Guest rooms: 400

Food: Onsite catering

Past events: State Republican Party convention, Alaska Library Association conference, Alaska Peony Growers Association conference

The Westmark Hotel boasts both the largest hotel ballroom in Fairbanks and one of the largest inventories of smaller rooms. The downtown hotel conference space occupies an entire wing of the hotel and can be accessed through the lobby or directly from the hotel’s back parking lot.

The Gold Room is a 5,400-square-foot ballroom that can be rented in its entirety or broken down into thirds. Around it are eight smaller rooms ranging in size from 2,080 to 263 square feet.

Unlike Holland America Cruise Line’s other Fairbanks hotel—the Princess Riverside Lodge—the Westmark is open year-round. In the winter the Westmark’s meeting space inventory grows to include the 3,300-square-foot Northern Latitudes restaurant and the 1,884-square-foot Tanana Trade Center.

 

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

Carlson Center Operations Manager Adam Powell talks about the Carlson Center Alaska Room during a March 28  Explore Fairbanks tour of meeting and hotel facilities.

Carlson Center

Meeting space: 13,028 square feet in meeting rooms in addition to the 34,018-square-foot arena floor

Guest rooms: None; however, Best Western Plus Pioneer Park is across the Chena River over a foot bridge

Food: Onsite catering

Past events: Alaska Miners Association Biennial Conference, Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, weekly Rotary and Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce luncheons

It’s not just a hockey arena. The big green building on the Chena River near downtown Fairbanks offers facilities for events from medium-sized meetings to some of Alaska’s largest conventions.

During the Explore Fairbanks tour, the Carlson Center was set up both for a trade show and a lunch banquet for the Alaska Miners Association. In addition to the arena, the event used other spaces including the Pioneer and North Star rooms, which total 6,200 square feet when combined.

The Carlson Center routinely hosts standalone events in smaller facilities, says operations manager Adam Powell.

 Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team locker room at the Carlson Center, under special circumstances and with permission from the university, is available for rent.

In all there are ten rooms available for rent in the arena, including four small multipurpose rooms and the 480-square-foot Alaska Boardroom, which has audio visual equipment built into a mural of Denali and an overhead light fixture designed to look like a glacier.

The University of Fairbanks hockey team locker room can be rented when it’s not in use during the hockey season. The room, with it its large decorative UAF Nanooks logo on the carpet, was used as a VIP holding room when former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came to Alaska in 2017 for the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.

 

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

The Garden Room at the Wedgewood Resort can be rented in conjunction with several adjoining rooms in the resort’s convention  center. 

Wedgewood Resort

Meeting space: More than 9,200 square feet of meeting space, plus access to the 25,500-square-foot museum for parties

Guest rooms: 462 rooms available during the summer; events can be scheduled year-round

Food: Onsite catering

Recent events: University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic Innovation Competition, fundraisers for the League of Women Voters, the Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska

The Wedgewood Resort is a 110-acre hotel and apartment complex located near downtown Fairbanks. Is has a secluded feel because of its location tucked away alongside Creamer’s Field Migratory Bird Refuge.

Most of the meeting venues are located in the conference center, a standalone building that includes the 2,726-square-foot Borealis Room. Guests can also rent any combination of smaller rooms within the conference room. The 1,365-foot Garden Room works well as a reception room or as vendor space, says Wedgewood Catering Manager Cherie Minakais. The 667-square-foot Board Room at the opposite end of the Borealis Room can house a buffet line. The 1,833-square-foot Gazebo Room is popular with wedding receptions because it overlooks the flowering grounds of the Wedgewood property and a gazebo often used for wedding services.

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

Antique clothing and cars are displayed at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum on the Wedgewood Resort property. 

 

Elsewhere on the Wedgewood property is the Taiga Center, a 2,640-square-foot building located at the trailhead of the Wedgewood’s nature trails, which adjoin the Creamer’s Field trail network. It’s a great place to hold a retreat, Minakais says.  

The Wedgewood also owns one of Fairbanks’ premiere visitor attractions: the 25,500-square-foot Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum features dozens of cars built between 1898 and 1938, displayed with historical clothing from the same period.

The museum can be rented for three-hour private parties, offering a bar, a heavy hors d'oeuvre station, and a dance floor positioned around the museum exhibits.  

“There are a lot of things for your guests to do. Even if they are not car buffs, they are going to love this space,” Minakais says. “It’s a great icebreaker because it gets guests talking and interacting instead of sitting at a table.”

 

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

The Binkley Room at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, set up for a Salvation Army banquet.

Pike’s Waterfront Lodge

Meeting Space: More than 6,300 square feet among three rooms and reception areas

Guest rooms: 208

Food: Onsite catering

Past events: Iditarod start events, Alaska Board of Game meetings, Alaska Food Policy Council Conference

At 2,800 square feet, the Binkley Room is the second-largest hotel ballroom in town, but it’s not a typical hotel ballroom space. The entire room is 80 feet long by 35 feet wide. Large windows on three sides overlook the Chena River.

The entire back of the hotel’s first floor can be rented as a unit called Pikes Waterfront. That rental includes the Binkley Room and the fireside, lounge, and piano areas. This lounge space on the way into the Binkley Room can be used for a bar or buffet line or vendor space. It was turned into a farmers market at a food conference last year.

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business 

The Alyeska Boardroom on the third floor of Pike’s Waterfront Lodge; the room can only be used as a board room because the table is too large to be moved out the doors.

Pikes also has the 1,210-square-foot Fireweed Room on the second floor and the Alyeska Boardroom on the third floor. The latter cannot be reconfigured for non-boardroom seating arrangements because the heavy wooden table doesn’t fit through the doors—it had to be brought in through the window, Renfrew says.

Pike’s is locally owned and has some quirky attractions not commonly associated with hotels and conference centers. These perks include aromatherapy, a three-hole mini golf course, and a collection of pet ducks that live in the lobby as chicks in the spring before moving outside to the “Lucky Duck Hotel,” on the hotel grounds: attractions advertised by 1950s style drawings displayed throughout the hotel.

“There are a lot of fun complimentary activities that you don’t even have to leave the property to enjoy,” says assistant manager Erin Krawczyk.

 

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

The 3,000-square-foot-plus Raven Hall dining room at Raven Landing Center features a stage, a bar with an automated Smartender, and a piano. 

Raven Landing Center

Meeting space: More than 5,300 square feet among five rooms

Guest rooms: None

Food: Onsite catering

Past events: Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival lunch bites programs, Fairbanks Children’s Museum Fundraiser, Fairbanks Symphony Fundraiser

The Raven Landing Center is a retirement community that opened in 2014. Many of its large community rooms were designed with private party and convention space rental in mind.

The centerpiece space is the 3,075-square-foot Raven Hall, which features large windows, 31-foot ceilings, a grand piano, and a stage. When not being rented, this space is the main dining room for residents and community guests. When rented for private events it can be used for theater productions, fashion shows, film screenings, and banquets. The Raven Hall recently added a bar, which is staffed by a Smartender automated cocktail dispenser. Event planners can also bring in a human bartender.

Sam Friedman | Alaska Business

The outside of one of Fairbanks’ newest meeting facilities, the Raven Landing Community Center, a senior citizen residential community with event spaces that can be rented by the general public.

Raven Landing has four other rental spaces onsite ranging in size from the 910-square-foot Fireplace Lounge to the 210-square-foot Meditation Room. The Fireplace Room is quasi-private. A curtain on two sides separates it from a residential hallway.

For meeting planners on a tight budget, four community rooms can be rented for $25 to $35 an hour. These 910-square-foot rooms are also quasi-private because they’re part of the residential section of Raven Landing. The community rooms offer kitchens and, unlike the other rental spaces at Raven Landing, can serve food not provided by the onsite caterer.  

 

Fairbanks Curling Club

Meeting space: 3,700 square foot trophy room

Guest rooms: None

Food: Commercial kitchen available

Past recent events: Lynden Transport company party, team-building activity for the 16th Aggressor Squadron (F-16 fighter jet pilots)

Located next to the Carlson Center, the Fairbanks Curling Club offers a unique amenity: a view over the largest curling facility in Alaska and an opportunity for event guests to get out on the ice and try curling themselves.

The nonprofit organization that owns the club rents its trophy room space year-round, but curling only happens between October and March. When the ice isn’t reserved for leagues or tournaments, the club can provide basic “learn to curl” lessons for event guests. “It’s a fun atmosphere. We’re kind of out of the mainstream,” says Ken Hall, a curling club volunteer and former board member.

The narrow (93-foot by 32-foot) trophy room is on the second floor of the club and looks down on the six curling sheets. The space has a commercial kitchen, deck, fireplace, and full bar. It’s decorated with curling trophies, photos, and memorabilia

 

Other small venues are also available in Fairbanks for a variety of meetings and events:

 

La Quinta Inns & Suites

Meeting space: 2,800-square-foot Glacier Room and 1,400-square-foot Finish Line Restaurant
Guest rooms: 113
Food: Open to on- or off-site catering
Past events: Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting, Yukon Quest “meet the mushers” event, military family readiness meeting

 

Regency Fairbanks Hotel

Meeting space: Two meeting rooms with a total of 1,928-square feet of space; Tubby’s Alaska BBQ, the 2,015 square-foot hotel restaurant, can also be rented
Guest rooms: 128
Food: Onsite catering
Past events: Lions Clubs and American Legion meetings, Explore Fairbanks staff retreat

 

Springhill Suites by Marriott

Meeting space: Three rooms totaling more than 1,200 square feet
Guest rooms: 140
Food: Hotel recommends onsite, independently owned restaurant
Recent events: Statewide Independent Living Council of Alaska, Alaska Recreation and Park Association, League of Women Voters

 

Sophie Station Suites

Meeting space: 595-square-foot boardroom; 1,944-square-foot lounge and 920-square-foot restaurant can also be rented
Guest rooms: 148, all suites
Food: Onsite catering
Recent events: Headquarters hotel (but not meeting venue) for Alaska Miners Association and Rural Providers Conference

 

Hampton Inn & Suites

Meeting space: 625-square-foot meeting room
Guest rooms: 101 at Hampton Inn; nearby Candlewood Suites is owned by same company
Food: Outside food allowed
Recent events: Hockey team meetings, Cannon photography workshop

 

 

Sam Friedman is a freelance writer in Fairbanks.

 

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