MeadowView General Manager Andy King speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — A $15 million expansion and renovation project at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center is expected to generate an additional $7 million a year for Kingsport’s economy.
MeadowView officials made this announcement during a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning for the expansion and renovation project, which is expected to be complete in about a year.
“MeadowView is soaring to new heights with new wings,” said MeadowView General Manager Andy King.
MeadowView is a partnership between the city of Kingsport and Eastman Chemical Co. The city owns the convention center and adjoining Cattails golf course, while Eastman owns the hotel and restaurant. Marriott manages the property.
In January, Eastman announced the $15 million project, which calls for the addition of 110 new guest rooms (in two 55-room towers), 10 of which will be executive king rooms. The project also includes the complete renovation of all existing 195 guest rooms — new furniture, paint, carpet and wallpaper, the latest technology enhancements, and new 37-inch flat-screen televisions in each room.
When completed, the hotel will have 305 rooms and be 55,000 square feet larger. The new towers or wings will be built on both sides of the existing hotel — one where the volleyball pit is located and the other on the other side of the hotel near the creek.
King said the expansion will allow MeadowView to target much larger group business than it has been able to accommodate in the past.
“Our sales team will be focused on markets like Lexington, Asheville and Chattanooga to compete for business that would not consider MeadowView in the past because of the amount of rooms available,” King said. “The expansion also gives us greater availability for customers that are in Kingsport doing business with local companies.”
Russ Rogers, chairman of the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau, said 142 conventions were held at MeadowView last year, with more expected for this year.
“With this expansion, we can have more people for our events, stay right here in Kingsport. With this expansion (our job) just got easier,” Rogers said.
In 2007, MeadowView set another record-breaking business year with revenues totaling more than $11 million.
King said MeadowView anticipates that number will grow by $7 million with the additional rooms.
MeadowView makes an annual economic impact of more than $23 million on Kingsport.
“The success of this hotel has been beyond what any of us had even hoped for,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “The naysayers have been proven wrong. There were many of them out there saying it would never work. The big lesson is, be positive and move forward. Anyone can lay down and give up, but I hope we’re moving forward and take an aggressive stance.”
Earlier this year, Phillips formed a committee to explore the idea of expanding and renovating the convention side of the facility — the part owned by the city. Phillips said the committee is expected to come before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in August with its recommendations.
“This addition will require us as a city to look very hard at what we can do to keep up on our end of this bargain,” Phillips said.
Construction on the new additions will begin soon, with the estimated completion date being August 2009. The renovation work will begin after the spring NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and King has said he hopes to finish in time for the August race. About 50 to 60 rooms will be out of inventory at a time while they are being renovated.
MeadowView has 35,000 square feet of convention center space and 30,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space. There have been no major renovations at the center since it opened in 1996.
Julie Bennett, chair-elect of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, said the city has reached another milestone with the facility.
“We are here now because the growth and business at MeadowView has far exceeded its capacity, and we’re ready to expand,” Bennett said. “We’re all part of the future of MeadowView. We’re all going to have a part in this expansion and making it a success.”