Throughout the region, you will find that many of the area’s fairgrounds have evolved into full-service event facilities. The horse and cow barns are still there, but the modern buildings and manicured open areas offer excellent options for any group activity. Fairgrounds are equipped to handle any size crowd, have ample parking and convenient access at a reasonable price. Here are four venues you may want to consider for your next event.
DESCHUTES FAIR AND EXPO CENTER
With views of seven snowcapped Cascade Mountain peaks, the Deschutes Fair and Expo center in Redmond, Oregon, has a variety of venues and activities for meetings and event planners to consider. Designed with buildings arranged in a circular pattern, the grounds are easy to navigate, and there is more than 100 acres of parking.
The Center Court, at the center of the of the grounds, is a natural landscape setting complete with manicured lawns, a meandering stream with a cascading waterfall and a pond. It is an excellent location for any outdoor event or activity.
Indoor facilities include the 279,000 square-foot Bank of the Cascades Center that holds as many as 7,800 for a performance or presentation. Located near the main entrance gate for easy access, the Three Sisters Conference Center can accommodate groups from 10 to 1,500 for meetings, conferences and seminars. With three large halls and 10 smaller rooms, the complex makes it easy to conduct a large group meeting and then move into smaller breakout sessions.
The catering department can provide meals, snacks or refreshments for up to 2,000 guests. The indoor conference centers are climate-controlled, and all have high speed WiFi and built-in sound systems. A perimeter road gives access to the back of each building for easy load-in/load-out.
The High Desert Challenge Course, a guided ropes course, operated by the Oregon State University Extension Service, is located at the fairgrounds. The course can be a good teambuilding experience, enabling participants to set goals, focus on solutions and learn new strategies to solve problems.
The location in the heart of Central Oregon offers groups access to all the indoor and outdoor activities of the region. Whether it is skiing, golf, whitewater rafting, rock climbing or brew pub touring and shopping, the post-conference activity options are endless. There are more than 4,000 hotel rooms within 20 miles, so multi-day conferences or events are easily accommodated. Central Oregon is a scenic three-hour drive from Portland, and the fairgrounds are less than three miles from Roberts Field, Central Oregon’s main airport, with direct access to most major cities in the region.
WASHINGTON STATE FAIR EVENTS CENTER
Located in Puyallup, Washington, mid-way between Seattle and Olympia, the Washington State Fair and Events Center offers an assortment of facilities for meetings and events. With 27 buildings offering space for groups of all sizes, the venue can support any group’s meeting or event.
The 122,000 square-foot Sleep Train Showplex, is comprised of an Exhibition Center with three main halls and an attached Conference Center. Built in 2006, this contemporary, climate-controlled facility can support a large conference or an intimate meeting. The Exhibition Center can seat as many as 3,400 attendees for a performance, seminar or trade show. The Conference Center can accommodate groups with 20 to 400 participants in 12,768 square of feet of space that can be divided into four meeting rooms plus two foyer areas. With state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, WiFi service and on-site catering, the Showplex can meet the needs of any meeting or event planner.
Additional buildings include the two-story Pavilion that accommodates more than 1,000 attendees on each floor for a conference or banquet, the 19,500 square-foot Expo Hall and several meeting rooms attached to the Paulhamus Arena. The meeting rooms are perfect for a smaller meeting or planning retreat.
The easily-accessed location, only 35 miles from either Seattle or Olympia and 30 minutes from SEA-TAC International Airport, make the Washington State Fair and Events center an attractive option for any Northwest event planner. For multi-day events, Tacoma, only 10 miles from the fairgrounds, has an abundance of hotels, motels, and B & B inns.
With easy access to Puget Sound, groups can include time in their conference agenda for any type of water activity, from kayaking to whale watching. A scenic one-hour drive from the fairgrounds takes groups to Mount Rainier National Park with unlimited sightseeing and outdoor activities. For a leisurely afternoon, Puyallup’s quaint downtown, with wonderful views of Mount Rainier, invites visitors to explore its many shops and restaurants.
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Missoula, Montana, is home to the Missoula Fairgrounds Events Center. Views of Pattee Canyon and Lolo Peak form the backdrop for group activities from a few participants to several hundred. Planners will find a site to meet their needs for any type of gathering. The fairgrounds are located in the center of Missoula, offering easy access to everything the city has to offer.
Several of the fairgrounds’ buildings are suitable for conferences, seminars, banquets and many more group activities. The historic and newly remodeled 2,100 square-foot Fine Arts Building holds up to 100 for a conference, workshop or party. The heated and air-conditioned building adjoins a covered patio and lawn, providing the opportunity for your event to spread outdoors when weather permits.
The Home Arts Building and Floriculture Building, each holding up to 300, are available year-round for conferences, workshops or parties. The 26,000 square-foot 4-H Pavilion is an outdoor venue, perfect for large warm weather activities such as concerts, receptions and trade shows.
A variety of local caterers can provide customized menus for any event. You may want to check out Missoula College Culinary Arts Program for your catering needs. The staff and students can provide a high-quality menu, and the income is used to support the program.
With more than 2,300 sleeping rooms, Missoula easily caters to multi-day events. Known as the Garden City for its lush green landscape, Missoula offers a rich cultural scene and a wide variety of group-friendly activities. The region is famous for rafting, kayaking and canoeing opportunities on the nearby rivers. The neighboring mountain ranges provide unlimited outdoor recreation and team building activities, while the city is loaded with shops, restaurants, brew pubs, museums and art galleries.
Missoula is situated on I-90, a three-hour drive from Spokane. Only five miles from the center of the city, the Missoula International Airport offers direct flights to and from Seattle, Portland and other major cities.
KOOTENAI COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Located on 83 park-like acres in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the Kootenai County Fairgrounds is a year-round event center just a short distance from one of America’s most scenic lakes. The venue offers an abundance of meeting rooms and activity options for meeting and event planners.
The site has more than 40,000 square feet of indoor space in five event-ready buildings, providing the right size venue for any activity. At 16,500 square feet, the Jacklin Event Building 25 is the largest indoor facility. It can accommodate a seated dinner of 700.
Event Buildings 1, 2 and 3 can be used separately, with capacities from 160 to 750 depending on the set up. These three buildings are connected so they can be combined to offer flexibility. Smaller buildings offer space for smaller meetings or breakout sessions. The events staff can provide catering options and audiovisual equipment to meet the needs of any event. WiFi access is available in many areas of the grounds and buildings. The fairgrounds have easy access to and from the major highways and free parking for as many as 6,000 cars.
Coeur d’Alene has an abundance of overnight accommodations from small cottages to large resorts. The region is a haven for outdoor pursuits, so you will want to build extra time into your conference agenda. The lake offers a range of water activities, while the nearby mountains provide outdoor adventure throughout the year. Coeur d’Alene’s downtown has a variety of unique shops, art galleries, spas and entertainment venues. The opportunities for team building activities or post-conference fun and relaxation are endless.
Situated at the intersection of two major highways, Coeur d’Alene is easy to reach by car. Spokane, Washington’s International Airport, offering direct or one-stop air service to most major U.S. cities, is only 30 minutes from the fairgrounds.
By Tim Hansen
Deschutes Fair and Expo Center
High Desert Challenge Course
Missoula College Culinary
Kootenai County Fairgrounds