KINGSPORT – You might find it hard to imagine Kingsport without the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. The hotel and the multi-purpose center form a distinct silhouette in the mountainous landscape.
But its impact extends beyond its expansive 30 acres and over 88,000 square feet of event space, even 25 years later.
25 years ago, MeadowView had just celebrated its official opening ceremony. The hotel and convention center was a long-awaited dream of city leaders and community members who wanted both an economic engine and a versatile meeting space for years to come.
âThis is the gateway to the Tri-Cities,â said Lynn Shipley, who served as president of the Kingsport Chamber when MeadowView opened. âIt has been great for the region. The economic impact is huge, but look at the development. The value of real estate and development is significant. What greater impact could a single project have than MeadowView? “
The convention and convention center collected $ 23 million in hotel taxes in its first 20 years, including $ 16.6 million for the visitors’ bureau, $ 3.7 million for the program fund. improvement of visitors to the city and $ 3.7 million for the general city fund. And in the years unaffected by COVID-19, MeadowView chief executive Ramona Jackson told The Times News, the site welcomes more than 400,000 guests and generates about $ 25 million annually.
â$ 25 million is huge for our region,â she said.
The resort is located between Interstate 26 and Wilcox Drive and includes the Marriott Hotel and Meadows Restaurant (owned by Eastman Chemical Co.) as well as the Convention Center and Golf Course (city owned). Marriott International manages the entire property. Eastman also agreed to guarantee construction and operating loans of $ 15 million for the $ 39 million project that became reality in 1996.
The plan for MeadowView, however, required more than just hopes of a positive economic impact.
In 1988, Kingsport voters rejected a referendum to build a performing arts town center with space for small gatherings. It was at this point that the city formed Kingsport Tomorrow, an association open to members of the community who wanted to give their opinion on the future of the city. And in the late ’80s and early’ 90s, a âvisualization processâ took place. The process invited community members to reflect on what Kingsport could look like in 2017, 100 years after the city was established.
“They were asked to close their eyes and think about what they thought Kingsport should look like on its 100th birthday, which was in 2017,” said Ken Maness, who was Kingsport alderman at the time. . âThe need for a conference center, a civic center, a multi-purpose facility and a very nice hotel was very important in the vision of this community and it was well articulated.â
The initial funding proposed for MeadowView included a 2% restaurant meal tax. The recommendation, however, encountered strong opposition from local restaurateurs and some 33,000 Kingsport citizens who signed a petition against the proposal. The following suggested funding method – a referendum to raise sales taxes by a quarter of a cent – was passed in the 1992 special election by a 2-1 margin, creating Kingsport’s largest public-private partnership in this day.
âIf it was just a top-down view of community leaders at the time saying, ‘We need this,’ it’s a little different,â Maness said with a laugh. âOnce you have the community behind a project completely and definitively, it can happen. That’s what made him special. This is what gave meaning.
The project also produced a multi-purpose facility that hosted everything from a recent Doberman Pinscher show bringing guests – and around 450 dogs – from all over to national golf tournaments and cage fight events. MeadowView has also hosted various large groups such as the Tennessee Volunteers football team, which stayed in Kingsport on a trip for the Battle at Bristol game against Virginia Tech, and car enthusiasts from the National Oldsmobile Association.
âWe really looked at how versatile the installation is,â Jackson said. âWe have life celebrations, we have birthday parties, we have association business, we have corporate business, MMA cage fights. We have organized concerts outside. Last October, we organized our very first dog show. There are so many events that are organized in this establishment.
The building has also undergone improvements over the past 25 years, including two major expansions, totaling some $ 30 million, more than the original cost of the convention center and hotel. In 2008, MeadowView completed the $ 15 million expansion and renovation of the hotel portion of the resort. And in January 2011, it opened the Executive Conference Wing – another $ 15 million extension to the interstate side of the property that included a ballroom, two state-of-the-art amphitheatres, and two executive boardrooms.
MeadowView has become the crown jewel of the Kingsport Convention Center, sitting at the base of Bays Mountain like an impatient doorman welcoming guests entering and exiting Kingsport. But the necessary planning, as well as its welcoming design, said Maness, also exemplifies the organized city plans that have made Kingsport the model city.
âThere’s something called the Kingsport spirit here,â Maness said. âIt really goes back to the founding of the city in 1917 and the fathers of the community. Kingsport was truly a planned industrial community with a town plan – and one that was executed well. The spirit of these founders is really well anchored in the community.
âKingsport is a very generous and welcoming city. Kingsport is a very planned and thoughtful city. This is just one of the examples and perhaps the best example of the spirit of Kingsport.