WICHITA FALLS HAS BECOME a not-so-hidden gem. Just ask the editors of ConventionSouth magazine, a multimedia events resource, which included Wichita Falls in its 2014 South’s Surprising Recreational Havens for Groups compilation. The list (compiled for the first time this year) was created specifically to highlight destinations in the South “that offer a surprising amount of recreational opportunities such as golfing, hiking and watersports, as well as numerous places to hold meetings and events.” Just 12 cities across the Southern United States were selected.
“We have known all along what a great time groups can have here and now we hope planners see that, too,” says Lindsay Greer, director of the Wichita Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Located in the Panhandle Plains region of north central Texas, Wichita Falls is directly between Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. And, like the name suggests, there are falls in Wichita Falls. Though a flood destroyed the original falls in the Wichita River during the late 1800s, the city has since rebuilt a 54-foot waterfall.
With numerous venues and hotels, Wichita Falls can host 100 to 1,000 people, making it a perfect destination for meetings and events. “We get you out of the hustle and bustle of larger cities and offer your attendees a chance to slow down, kick back and meet in a friendly community where they will feel at home,” Greer says.
The Kemp at the Forum
The Kemp at the Forum, built in 1927, operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Arts Council, Wichita Falls Area, Inc. and is the central location for visual and performing arts in the Wichita Falls community. The 11,000-square-foot facility also is a Wichita Falls and Texas Historical Landmark, and recently underwent a $2.4 million renovation.
“The unique characteristics of the building were preserved, while adding a modern flair that will appeal to all types of events,” says Jana Schmader, director of the venue.
The grand auditorium is the main room from the original 1927 structure, and it’s the most formal of the event space options, with 24-foot ceilings, a theater-style stage and 2,800 square feet of seating space. The maximum capacity is 176 seated at round tables and 325 theater-style. For smaller groups, the lounge with a large meeting table is a more intimate option.
The building can be customized into eight different rooms or maximized to utilize the entire building. A commercial kitchen makes it appealing for caterers.
The Kemp Center for the Arts
The Kemp Center for the Arts (also managed by the Arts Council, Wichita Falls Area, Inc.) is a three story building that includes two art galleries, an outdoor sculpture garden and the David H. White great hall, which can seat up to 175 guests. It’s also the oldest currently operational building in Wichita Falls. The Kemp Center was built by J.A. Kemp, one of the city’s founding fathers, as a Christmas gift to his wife, Flora. She wanted a library where community members could locate books not readily available to them. The library opened in 1917 and functioned until the mid-1990s. Groups that host events at the venue partake in a variety of themes from Western to high-class fashion, and, according to Carlana Fitch, CEO of the Arts Council, Wichita Falls Area, Inc., these themes are only getting more creative.
“In the 12 years that we have been open to the public, there has been a very definite change from the ordinary to very imaginative themes,” says Fitch. “I personally do not see this slowing down in the future; in fact, it seems more and more that bigger and better is the key.”
Wellington Banquet & Conference Center
The 2,300-square-foot outdoor terrace makes this 9,300-square-foot venue a standout in Wichita Falls. With a maximum event capacity of 650, the Wellington is perfect for large groups, with rental rates determined by room section, time of day and day of the week. The proximity to the Holiday Inn Express provides convenient accommodations for overnight stays. As an added perk, the linens are included in the rental fee. And regardless of meeting size, every group is provided with a final run-through prior to the event to firm up details.
“[The Wellington] is perfect for corporate groups because we can accommodate your group of six or 600, and manage all of your food and beverage needs,” says Kathie Forehand-Chaddick, director of sales. “The Wellington provides simplified pricing, priced per person, to meet any meeting need.” The Wellington’s preferred vendors include Monarch Catering, Market Street Catering, Kathy’s Bakery, Mayfield Events, Celebrations Photo Booth and others.
Wichita Falls Museum of Art
Located at Midwestern State University, the Wichita Falls Museum of Art is a unique venue with three distinct event spaces and plans for more in the future. The Mac and Connie Cannedy Event Hall is a 2,000-square-foot space that can seat 170 seated with room for more at a reception. The Art Lounge is half the size and can accommodate 70 guests seated. For outdoor celebrations, the grounds and museum courtyard can seat 175 at tables around the permanent sculptures. In January 2015, a covered outdoor area with two large open terraces overlooking Sikes Lake and seating for 150 will be available.
There are myriad options for dining venues in the area. “Wichita Falls has several [dining] favorites,” Greer says. “Many of our local favorites offer first-class catering. We can arrange for a fantastic meal catered at our various meeting spaces. Or, let the CVB staff plan a dine-around, and your group can split up to try a bit of everything that Wichita Falls has to offer.”