Monthly Archive: January 2016

Sweet sounds of success greet ad music festival

After hundreds of man hours and several near nervous breakdowns, the inaugural event of the “New’ Chicago Coalition finally turned out to be an indisputable success. An estimated 700-plus supporters turned out for “The Sounds of Chicago‘ last week to pay tribute to the Windy’s City’s ever-popular music producers.

Happily, the majority of the crowd (about 80 percent by one estimation) were from the event’s intended audience of agencies, and included leaders such as Norm Muse, chairman of the board and chief creative officer, Leo Burnett Co. Inc.

By 11 am the morning after, executive director Chuck Standen and assistant director Scott Lynch had already received about 30 congratulatory phone calls. Meanwhile, chief organizers Ted Kay, president of TMK-Elias Productions, and Murray Allen, president of Universal Recording, were breathing audible signs of relief and getting back to their own business affairs after dedicating countless hours of their own and their staff’s services to this mammoth undertaking.

“Class Act’

Highlights of the evening included a medley of jingles from the “50s and “60s composed by Shelly Elias of TMK-Elias Productions at the eleventh hour and performed by 20 jingle singers. Plans to bing in some of the jingle singers from those eras were thwarted, and Elias worked until dawn two days prior to the event, lifting and weaving together advertising tunes from a collector’s album. Rehearsals continued until minutes before the doors opened Feb. 5.

The main event was an hour-long presentation featuring work by 18 Chicago commercial music producers and the commercials in which the jingles were used. The big difference was that attendees heard the music as it was originally mixed on a top-notch stereo system.

Coalition founder Sterling “Red’ Quinlan, who has been keeping a keen eye on what his successors have been doing with his baby, had nothing but praise for the big event.

“It was a class act all the way,’ he said.

Music houses of all sizes and stature submitted a three-minute sampling of their best work–and agencies waived their usual bans on public screening of their commercials, many of which were designated for other markets and quite current. Represented were: Advertunes, Colnut-Fryer, Comtrack, Joe Godfrey, Herschell Commercial, Klaff-Weinstein, Libman Music, Marier Music, Dick Marx, Nuance Productions, O-Donnell-Salvatori, Opus III, Renaissance, Steve Samler, Steve Sperry, Tatgenhorst Music, TMK-Elias Productions and Bobbv Whiteside.

?? was a group effort–a lot of people deserve a pat on ?? back,’ said Ted Kay. “It was fun, but I’m glad it’s over.’

“It was a monster project,’ added Murray Allen. “We had to remix and digitize, add time code and compile an enormous edit decision list. It took a lot to time.’

While numerous people donated their time and energy, special recognition should go to Kathy Bond, who worked closely with Kay on publicity and organization; to Editel, which donated the services of Mike “Opie’ Opager for three full nights; to Universal Recording for Jamie Chappel’s week of overtime while working on the mix and sync; and to ABC anchorman Floyd Kalber, who served as master of ceremonies.

Better Than “Break Even’

The week prior to the big day, event organizers were concerned–panicked might be an appropriate term– about low advance ticket sales. Tickets were sold for $25 each, and the Park West Ballroom has a capacity of 1,000. Although final counts weren’t in at press time, both Standen and former Coalition Executive Director Doyle Kaniff reported ticket sales at the door were stronger than expected, with total attendance estimated at 700-800.

“We did more than break even,’ Standen noted. “We were concerned about breaking even, but we ended up making a couple thousand, I think.’

Credit for coming up with the idea goes to Doyle Kaniff, who had intended to pull off the event prior to stepping down from his post and turning over the reins to Standen. However, Kaniff’s appointment as director of corporate development for Video Services Corp. in Los Angeles abbreviated his involvement, leaving other Coalition proponents to pick up the slack and bringing Standen on board ahead of schedule.

“The idea was based on organizing something that the whole community could rally around, something very positive,’ Kaniff said. “We needed a rallying point to get people together and stop the “them and us’ stuff–I think we’ve been successful in that.

“If they decided to do something like this next year, regardless of what it is, as long as it’s a positive thing, they’ll have an even better attendance,’ Kaniff predicts.

Chuck Standen certainly won’t be content to rest on the laurels of “The Sounds Of Chicago”s success. After only a few months, his “part-time,’ 50-hour-a-week position has involved a lot of hard work–but he’s quick to note he’s having a great time doing it. He noted plans are already in the works for “some biggies.’ But his–and Kaniff’s–first goal has already been accomplished. “The Coalition has been revived.’

Compact discs sing a hi-tech success story

Just two years after the introduction of the $900 CD-101 compact disc player in Japan by Sony, worldwide sales of players have reached 1.2 million units, with sales of the 4-3/4-inch discs topping 22 million units. This translates to roughly $800 million and euphoria in the audio industry.

It took prerecorded cassette tapes six years to achieve this degree of market penetration, and they now make up 37% of recorded music sales.

Despite a five-month lag between the debut of the compact disc (CD) player in Japan and the U.S., a scarcity of players six months after entry, and a disc catalogue that numbered only 2,000 titles by the end of last year vs. 80,000 long-playing record titles, the U.S.’s share of the market is a hefty 22%-23%.

Player sales of around 250,000 for 1984 were up 671% over 1983, though shipments didn’t really get under way until mid-summer of that year. Disc sales of 4.9 million units in 1984 were up 512% over 1983’s tally of 800,000, and industry observers project sales of 9.9 million discs in 1985. Essentially, the last half of 1983 was spent educating dealers and consumers and jockeying for market position by hardware manufacturers.

Sony’s initial thrust was directed at audiophiles. To reach this select group, the company supplied 55 top audio specialty dealers and 300 radio stations with disc players and point-of-purchase material.

Says Marc Finer, product communications manager for Sony Consumer Products, Park Ridge, NJ, “We deliberately started slowly because Sony’s approach is to lead technologically and to provide marketing–training, education, advertising, promotions–to create awareness.”

The company’s efforts were supported by ads in the audio magazines Stereo Review, High Fidelity, and Billboard, and the plugs the company received each time a radio station played a disc on the players supplied by Sony, which also involved itself in joint promotions with disc manufacturers. A play for the masses

A typical promotion was the company’s tie-in with CBS Records, PolyGram, and Warner/Elektra/Atlantic to sponsor a “Date with Digital” audio display, at the 1983 and 1984 music festivals held during spring break in Daytona, FL. Sony supplied players for the demonstration booth as well as a player and stereo receiver as prizes for a sweepstakes drawing.

At the beginning of 1984, the company set its sights on the mass market for which it had developed the CD-200 with a suggested list of $700. Retail outlets grew from 200 at the end of 1983 to 8,000 by the end of last year. Though company spokespersons won’t discuss market share, some industry observers credit the manufacturer with at least 48% of the CD player market.

Technics, JVC, Denon, and Yamaha used pretty much the same strategy as Sony while Magnavox, Fisher, Sanyo, and Sharp zeroed in on the mass consumer arena as soon as they entered the market.

Magnavox installed demonstration models for a two-week period in outlets of 26 department-store chains around the country. Fisher, Sanyo, and Sharp also targeted the mass market, delivering their products to audio chains and department stores.

The parent company of Magnavox is Philips N.V., Eindhoven, Netherlands, the original developer of CD technology. Sony was brought into the picture by Philips to perfect the technology for error-free performance.

The sound on compact discs is picked up by a tiny laser beam that reads pits with numeric values that are molded into plastic that is coated with a thin layer of aluminum. Because no stylus touches the discs, their life is indefinite. They don’t break or easily scratch.

Says Leslie Rosen, executive director of the Compact Disc Group, a nonprofit trade association, “I guess you could destroy them if you wanted to, but it’s something you would have to deliberately want to do.”

Despite these obvious advantages and the fact that sales of components and music had been stagnant for several years before CDs came on the market, most audio dealers and record retailers were reluctant to take on the digital product. Many had been burned by other audio “revolutions” such as 8-track cartridges, which have all but faded into the night, and quadraphonic sound, which never gained a firm foothold.

The audio dealers took a show-me stance, waiting for assurance that record companies were really committed to the format. Both component dealers and record retailers were also waiting for the hardware to come down to a level that middle-class consumers could afford: players in the $500-$700 price range.

Sony’s initial entry into the U.S. market, the CD-101, carried a suggested list of $900. By the end of 1983, there were 16 manufacturers in the field with players ranging in price from $800 to $1,200, retail.

At the January 1984 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a downward price trend became evident. Sony and Sansui each showed models with suggested lists of $700, while Yamaha, Sanyo, and Sherwood introduced players for even less. Yamaha offered its Model CD-XI at a suggested list price of $649; the suggested list for Sanyo’s CP-200 was $549.95, while Sherwood tagged its CDP-100 at $499.95. Shortly after the winter show, Yamaha dropped the suggested list on its CD-XI model to $550 to better compete with the less expensive Sanyo and Sherwood players.

Six months later at the summer CES, prices slid even more. Some 7 of the 30 models exhibited were priced under $500, with Sharp leading the price break on two models, the DX-100, with a suggested list of $399, and the DX-600 at $449.

By the end of 1984, the price range on some 60 models being manufactured by 32 companies ran to a low of $299.95 for Sony’s D-5 portable, introduced in November, to a top price of $1,600 for Kyocera Corp.’s DA-910.

In addition to players being put on the market with initially lower price tags, prices on first- and second-generation models were being cut drastically. Magnavox slashed $300 off one of its models and $400 off another. “The consumer was saying ‘get the price down,’” says Stan Veltkamp, vice president, audio sales, for Magnavox. “It makes sense to us to try and get our CD line in place at the right distributors at the right price.”

Disc prices experienced a similar downturn, dropping to $15.99 retail, from an initial price range of $17-$20.

Warner/Elektra/Atlantic, the recording arm of Warner Communications, Burbank, CA, precipitated the drop in retail prices last July when it cut its wholesale price to dealers to $9.81 from $11.64. The other labels quickly followed suit.

Cal Roberts, senior vice president, operations/marketing, for CBS Records, says he does not expect wholesale disc prices to drop much further. “I don’t think the economics will permit this” he says. “The cost of putting out a CD is $2.50 per unit, twice the cost of producing an analog record.”

The first CD production facility, Digital Audio Disc, a joint venture of Sony and CBS Records, opened in Terre Haute, IN, in August. Roberts says that by mid-year the production unit will be issuing 300,000 discs a month.

Not all record retailers waited for disc prices to come down before carrying them. Art and Jon Shulman, who own four Laury’s stores, headquartered in Niles, IL, and Russ Solomon, president of the 36-unit Tower Records chain, Sacramento, CA, started promoting discs some 19 months ago when the total catalogue numbered 500 titles. Disc pioneers

“We jumped into CDs immediately,” says Art Shulman, who reports that discs represent 30% of his sales. “We did everything and anything we could to associate ourselves with them and establish ourselves as the medium for CDs in this area. We had 100 titles when none were available. A month after we got into CDs, we put lists together of likely buyers and started mailing out a monthly catalogue. Now we’re shipping discs all over the world.”

Solomon of Tower Records conducted basically the same kind of promotions, advertising heavily on local rock and classical stations in the areas where he has stores, as well as running full-page advertisements in metropolitan dailies.

four months ago, CDs accounted for 4.5% of Tower’s $150 million annual revenues. By year-end, the annual average was 8% and during the holidays it floated between 20% and 40%.

Rudy Simpson, buyer for Tower’s classical store on Sunset Blvd. in West Los Angeles, says that sales of 2,000 to 4,000 discs on a weekend are not unusual.

As discs become more important to the unit’s mix, Simpson keeps upgrading the CD section, which two years ago was a wall bookshelf and now has grown to a separate room equipped with two players and headphones. Tower’s disc prices average $14.95. Sale prices are $1-$2 lower.

Though there are still some skeptics, Bill Silverman, director of communications for the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), says, “The compact disc is here to stay. The CD has already passed the point beyond which there’s a question of whether it will survive or not.”

John Briesch, vice president, consumer audio sales and marketing, Sony Consumer Products, says “there is no doubt that the digital audio compact disc system represents the future.”

Shulman of Laury’s agrees. “We’re all vets in this business and we’ve been through a lot of phoney baloney,” he says, “but this is a real advance, not something done with mirrors and as important as it’s being for real, it’s very easily demonstrable to a customer. All you have to do is put some earphones on them and after two or three seconds of listening, they’re yours.”

Briesch is an officer of the Compact Disc Group, formed by the Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA) in 1983. Last March, the group spun itself off from the RIAA and set itself up as a not-for-profit trade association to promote CD technology to the consumer. Its members come from the audio and recording industry.

What this means in practical terms is cooperative effort between members of the two industries to increase public awareness of CDs through seminars and joint promotions. Rosen says that two years ago none but the most sophisticated audiophile knew what a compact disc was. Today, says Rosen, “15% of consumers know about them.”

While it was the adoption of the Philips/Sony technology as the single standard for CDs that helped to push them to quick success in the market, there is no such agreement on packaging, with the two-year-old debate of blister wrap vs. cardboard pack still unresolved.

But that is not uppermost in the minds of most of the industry. Everyone is anticipating that portable and car models will do for the CD what the Walkman personal stereo and auto tape decks did for cassette tape sales.

Some, however, think discs have their drawbacks. As one consumer put it, “What good are they if you can’t record on them at home?”–the same argument that sunk the videodisc player.

But, for audiophiles who become spoiled by the quality of compact discs, Sony offers two digital processors ($700 and $2,000) capable of reproducing near-CD quality on cassette tape. Furthermore, compact disc player manufacturers will continue to receive steady promotional help and new titles from record company executives thrilled by the fact that the popular new technology cannot be cheaply reproduced at home.

Tennessee: top meeting facilities, entertainment complexes luring major convention groups

A coonskin-capped pioneer, armed only with his trusty flintlock rifle, exploring the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains–that’s an image many conjure up when they think of Tennessee. Others, more in tune with the present, might picture a nuclear physicist toiling at an Oak Ridge laboratory, or an engineer working on a dam for the TVA.

In fact, Tennessee’s commercial side is becoming as well-known as its friendly, down-home ambiance. The pride of its residents is reflected in its five official state songs: “Rocky Top,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “My Tennessee,” “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee,” and “My Homeland, Tennessee”–ample testimony to the fact that the state has produced and nurtured several rich, flavorful varieties of American music.

Nashville, of course, is the home of “country.” Knoxville, and other cities, have heard bluegrass develop from the songs of Irish and Scots who settled there decades ago. Memphis gave birth ot the Delta blues, which had its origins in the sorrowful songs of poor blacks in the river cities of America.

While these three major cities are justifiably proud of their rich historical and musical traditions, they haven’t neglected tomorrow and tomorrow’s business-especially the meetings business. Many ramshackle downtown areas have been rejuvenated and brightened with ultramodern office buildings and charming entertainment complexes. The hotels there and in smaller towns, particularly Chattanooga and Gatlinburg, offer a wide variety of top meeting facilities, many of which were built only within the past five years. Nashville

Nashville’s biggest industries are publishing, insurance and finance, but everyone knows why some streets in town are called such names as Music Square East, Roy Acuff Place and Johnny Cash Boulevard. Some 100 recording studios and record companies can be found here, many of them on celebrated Music Row. Within walking distance of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (last resting place of Elvis’s solid gold (Cadillac), you’ll find the Guinness Hall of World Records; Nusic City Jubilee, which offers live country-music shows on weekends; and the Car Collectors Hall of Fame.

There’s music galore for almost every taste at Opryland U.S.A., a $28-million family-entertainment complex in a 12-acre park 11 miles from donwtown. Opryland prides itself on its bountiful live-music productions: at any given time some 15 shows, ranging from four-piece bluegrass bands to big stage production, are being performed. There are also rides, specialty restaurants, and, of course, the Grand Ole Opry, where on Friday and Saturday nights, the biggest stars in country music perform on the nation’s oldest continuous radio show.

Rick Davis, director of conventions for the Nashville CVB, is jubilant about the steady growth of both the city’s meeting and convention facilities and the business that these places are attracting. “We’ve had a 21 percent increase in meeting attendance this year over 1983,” he said, “and in the next four years, we’ll have hosted all the major meeting groups,” including Meeting Planners International, the National Tour Association and the Convention Liaison Council.

Ground was broken last year on a new convention facility, the Nashville Convention Center, which Davis said will open in mid-1986. It will feature a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall and 30 additional meeting rooms, and will be anchored by a 704-room Stouffer’s hotel.

Nashville’s current facility, the Municipal Auditorium, has 63,000 square feet of exhibit space and a seating capacity of 9,900; it can handle 300 eight- by 10-foot booths.

The Nashville Airport is undergoing an expansion that, when finished in 1988, will double its size. Already, Davis said, the airport has the capacity to handle 10,500 incoming passengers daily, which is 2,000 more than last year.

They city now has some 14,000 hotel rooms. The newest facility will be the Sheraton Music City Hotel, when it opens next March with 412 rooms, an 11,000-square-foot ballroom, and seven additional meeting rooms, all next door to the airport.

Major meeting sites in town include the Hyatt Regency Nashville (500 rooms, 15 meeting rooms) across from the State Capitol Building; Radisson Plaza (350 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Maxwell House (292 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Nashville Marriott (400 rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Sheraton Nashville (280 rooms, nine meeting rooms); Airport Hilton (230 rooms, 12 meeting rooms): Best Western Executive Inn (300 rooms, 11 meeting rooms); Best Western Road Venture Inn, next to the Opryland Complex (214 rooms, three meeting rooms); The Hermitage, also next to the State Capitol Building (112 rooms, three meeting rooms); and the Holiday Inn Briley Parkway near Opryland (400 rooms, six meeting rooms).

Inside the Opryland U.S.A. complex is the Opryland Hotel. Built in 1977, it was renovated and enlarged in 1982, virtually doubling the room count, from 598 to 1,067, and adding a 77,000-square-foot exhibit hall, bringing the facility’s total exhibit space to 107,000 square feet. Also added were a 30,000-square-foot ballroom with a permanent stage, and 37 breakout rooms. All told, the hotel, an M&C four-time Gold Key winner, has a mammoth 230,000 square feet of function space.

While a couple of riverboats already ply the waters near Nashville, they’ll be upstaged when Opryland premieres its General Jackson in mid-1985.

For information: Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, 161 Fourth Avenue N., Nashville, TN 37219; (615) 259-3900. Memphis

Founded in 1819 by General Andrew Jackson, Judge John Overton and General James Winchester, Memphis was named after the Egyptian city on the Nile; tradition says that the name means “place of good abode.” After the Civil War, the city became quite prosperous owning to the cotton industry and the brisk Mississippi river traffic, and today it’s chiefly valued as an important national distribution center.

But everyone knows the city as the birthplace of the blues and of one Elvis Aaron Presley, who was reportedly delivered by the composer W. C. Handy in a saloon on Beale Street. The city recently renovated the area, now known as the Beale Street Historic District, as part of a $250-million program that also created several tourist attractions. You can catch some of the city’s best music at clubs in the Beale Street area–not surprising, since some of the nightspots there are owned by such people as Lou Rawls, Charlie Rich and Al Hirt.

One of the newest and most elaborate attractions is Mud Island, a $63 million recreation complex built on a sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi and connected to downtown by a monorail. Its 50 acres include an aquarium, a river museum and a 4,300-seat amphitheater where you can hear rock, blues, gospel, bluegrass, pop and even classical music in the summer. There’s even a five-block-long scale model of the Lower Mississippi River Valley–complete with real currents.

The Memphis Convention Center Complex, houses the Everett Cook Convention Center and Auditorium, and is one of the largest in the country. The main convention hall has 125,000 square feet of unobstructed function space; it seats 16,500 for meetings and 12,000 for banquets. The Auditorium has two halls, a 12,270-square-foot meeting room and a ballroom. At street level, a vast 21,000-square-foot lobby faces Main Street through a two-story window wall of glass. The Center also has 30 conference rooms, seating from 25 to 500, and over 22,000 square feet of storage space.

The Center is bordered on the west by the river, on the east by the city’s Civic Center, and on the south by the new Mid-America Mall, a ten-block-long ribbon of promenades, sidewalk cafes, displays, playgrounds and decorative canopies.

There are about 9,000 hotel rooms in the area, and the Memphis CVB reports that three hotels will open their doors in the next few months. The 415-room Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, set to open in March, will connect with the convention center complex. Its one ballroom will seat 460 for a banquet and 500 for a meeting. The old Hotel Tennessee is being refurbished and is scheduled to open next fall as the Summit Memphis Hotel, with 270 rooms. The French Quarter Inn, an all-suite facility with 70 suites, opens in the Overton Square area in November 1985.

Major meeting facilities here include: the 26-story Hyatt Regency, a suburban hotel 12 miles from the downtown business district (400 rooms, 15 meeting rooms, 12,000-square-foot ballroom); the 452-room Peabody Hotel, with its famous ducks that march every night from the lobby fountain to their penthouse–in formation; the Holiday Inn Executive Conference Center, 12 miles south of Memphis in Olive Branch, Miss., (177 rooms, 16 meeting rooms and a 350-seat amphitheatre); the Sheraton Memphis (243 rooms, six meeting rooms), and the Ramada Convention Center Hotel (186 rooms, five meeting rooms).

There are four properties adjacent to Memphis International Airport: the 400-room Hilton, the 213-room Sheraton, the 329-room Quality Inn, and the 200-room Winchester Plaza.

For information: Convention and Visitors Bureau of Memphis, 12 S. Main St., Suite 107, Memphis, TN 38103, (901) 526-1919. Knoxville

Knoxville, in the eastern part of the state, underwent a considerable facelift in preparation for the World’s Fair of 1982. New hotels sprang up, much of downtown was renovated, and a couple of permanent attractions made their debut–most notably, the 266-foot-high Sunsphere, the city’s answer to Seattle’s Space Needle.

Since then one of the Fair’s largest buildings was completely redone and opened last year as the Knoxville Convention Center, which has 108,000 square feet of exhibit space, 21 meeting rooms and seating capacity for 10,000. Nearby is the Civic Coliseum, with 32,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The 300-room Holiday Inn on Henley Street is directly connected to the Convention Center. A block away is the 325-room Knoxville Hilton, with 11 meeting rooms, the largest of which seats 900. The other big downtown hotel is the Hyatt Regency, with 387 rooms and 13 meeting rooms. Its Regency Ballroom can accommodate 1,200 people for a meeting and 800 for a banquet.

There’s also the Holiday Inn Knoxville West (242 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and 1,175 square feet of exhibit space), the Holiday Inn University Center (217 guest rooms, three meeting rooms), the Knoxville Airport Hilton Inn (250 guest rooms, 17 meeting rooms), the Quality Inn Downtown Hotel (200 guest rooms, eight meeting rooms), the Sheraton Campus Inn (119 guest rooms, three meeting rooms), and Sheraton West (225 guest rooms, eight meeting rooms).

For more information: Knoxville CVB, P.O. Box 15012, Knoxville, TN 37901; (615) 523-7263. Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, some 40 miles southeast of Knoxville, is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, half of which is in neighboring North Carolina. Developed into a year-round resort in the 1940s, Gatlinburg now has about 5,000 hotel rooms, not to mention plenty of attractions, including music festivals and shops.

The River Terrace Resort, which opened in 1983, has 209 rooms and a conference center with 18,000 square feet of meeting space. The W.L. Mills Convention Center has two exhibit halls with 7,900 and 8,400 square feet of meeting space respectively; the latter is known as the Gatlinburg Civic Auditorium.

Other facilities are the Glenstone Lodge (222 guest rooms, nine meeting rooms); Holiday Inn Hotel Resort (411 guest rooms, 12 meeting rooms); Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge (252 guest rooms, one meeting room); Quality Inn Cobbly Nob Resorts (108 guest rooms, two meeting rooms); Quality Inn In Town (70 guest rooms, three meeting rooms); Ramada Inn Four Seasons and Convention Center (145 guest rooms, five meeting rooms); Riverside Motor Lodge (160 guest rooms, five meeting rooms); and the Sheraton Gatlinburg (315 guest rooms, 14 meeting rooms).

For information: Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 527, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; (800) 251-9868, (615) 436-4178. Chattanooga

A city of interesting contrasts–which include excellent shopping of both 18th century English antiques and regional folk crafts–Chattanooga is also determined to expand its convention and hospitality plant. The 225,000-square-foot Chattanooga/Hamilton County Convention and Trade Center will open next April in downtown, within walking distance of some 1,300 hotel rooms. The facility will offer 60,000 square foot of exhibit space and will be anchored by a 352-room Holiday Inn, which will have three 1,500-square-foot banquet rooms and 18 breakout rooms. The center’s kitchen will be able to serve banquets for up to 550 people.

The center will complement the meeting facilities at the nearby University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (including a two-year-old 13,000-seat sports arena) and the downtown Memorial Auditorium & Convention Center. The latter has 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five meeting rooms.

There are about 5,000 hotel rooms in the area. The Read House (245 guest rooms, 10 meeting rooms) is a Mobil three-star property on the National Registry of Historic Places. There’s also the Choo-Choo Hilton, which recently expanded to 375 rooms; 48 of those are in luxuriously appointed train cars, which may explain why the hotel claims to be the most popular Hilton in the country.

There are two Sheratons: Sheraton City Center (205 guest rooms, nine meeting rooms) and the Sheraton Inn Chattanooga South (140 guest rooms, three meeting rooms).

The Quality Inn South Resort and Convention Centre recently changed its name to the Southern Inn; it has 245 guest rooms and 10 meeting rooms.