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Eugene, Oregon is in the Running to Host Meetings & Events of all Sizes

By Ron Engeldinger

Track Town USA. The Silicon Shire. The Emerald City. Eugene’s many nicknames refl ect both its natural beauty and the active lifestyle that fl ourishes there. The state’s second-largest city is home to the University of Oregon—a national track-and-fi eld powerhouse—and one of the university’s former track stars founded Nike. Eugene has “won awards for its walkable and bike-friendly network of trails and was recently recognized as one of the top 10 newest tech centers in the U.S.,” notes Juanita Metzler, convention sales manager for Travel Lane County. It’s also accommodating. Whether you’re planning a tech-intensive conference, a memorable wedding location or a large-scale event, Eugene can meet your needs. “The people of Eugene pride themselves on being unique, independent, friendly and super kind,” says Janis Ross, vice president of convention and sports marketing at Travel Lane County.

Where to Meet

Ideally located in Eugene’s thriving urban center, Hilton Eugene has 30,000 square feet of conference and meeting space and 274 newly renovated guest rooms. The Hilton offers a variety of venue options, whether it’s a gathering of 1,800 attendees theater style in the 12,000-square-foot Playwrights Hall or a smaller meeting with a view from the 12thfloor, 3,500-square-foot Vista room.

Next door to the Hilton, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts’ event spaces include its modern Silva Concert Hall, which can accommodate as many as 2,500 guests theater style. Northwest-themed décor and public art throughout the center provide a memorable backdrop for any occasion. Julie Saul, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Eugene, notes, “Large events can take advantage of our strong collaboration with Hult Center to make use of both facilities.” Also nearby is the HiFi Music Hall, which offers state-of-the-art live streaming for remote presentations. And for smaller groups, the Inn at the 5th offers 1,400 square feet of flexible meeting space and 69 luxury guest rooms in a boutique hotel.

Only a few minutes from downtown, the Valley River Inn features the ambiance of a riverside lodge overlooking the Willamette River. With 257 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of event space, the facility has a focus on sustainability and customer service. Director of Sales and Marketing Natasha Herndon says, “We are very flexible and can provide the unique touches that make an event successful.”

The Center for Meeting and Learning at Lane Community College emphasizes sustainability, as well. Its 6,900-square-foot conference room can accommodate as many as 680 guests, while the auditorium and several meeting rooms are ideal for smaller groups. In addition, fully stocked kitchen classrooms are great for fun team-building cooking activities, such as your own Iron Chef–inspired competition.

The gorgeous University of Oregon campus has countless alternatives, as well. For large events, the Matthew Knight Arena holds 12,364 participants. The newly remodeled Erb Memorial Union includes 23,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a ballroom with a capacity of up to 760 guests. Classrooms, lecture halls and auditoriums throughout the campus are also available when not in use for classes. For on-site accommodations, the residence halls may be available for overnight stays, depending on your schedule. And when the weather is warm, the campus’s lush, wellmanicured grounds offer a picturesque setting for receptions or weddings.

Additional venues in the area include the Lane Events Center, home of the Lane County Fair. It offers more than 75,000 square feet of performance halls, pavilions, auditoriums, exhibit halls and meeting rooms that cater to gatherings of any size. The expansive grounds have room for large outdoor events and ample free parking.

A former lumber mill is the site of the recently opened Venue 252. The facility has a modern industrial vibe and as much as 9,400 square feet of open-space flexibility in its Grand Hall and almost 2,400 square feet in its Gallery Space.

What to Do & Where to Go

Post-meeting activities range from leisurely to adventurous. More than 42 miles of paved paths, including scenic routes along the river, beckon groups to come outside and play. Rent some electric bikes from Eugene Electric Bicycles and hit the trails. Owner Marie Drake says, “Eugene is a great bike town, and this is an easy way to enjoy it.” The city also offers great access to whitewater rafting, rock climbing, ropes courses, and is about a one-hour drive from the Central Oregon coast. And shoppers will discover an eclectic collection of local stores and restaurants at the Fifth Street Public Market in the heart of downtown.

Pick up a Eugene Ale Trail map at the Travel Lane County Visitor Center to sample Eugene’s thriving craft beer scene. For a quirky pub crawl, hop on board Pacific Pub Cycle’s multipassenger community-pedaled bike, which is powered by a group of 10 to 14 passengers and visits many of the stops along the Eugene Ale Trail. You can even decorate the bike with your group’s theme or rent it as a stationary bar.

Regardless of what is on your group’s agenda—educational meetings or pub tours, teambuilding activities or shopping, a day in the boardroom or at the coast—you can be assured that the businesses and residents of Eugene will be happy to oblige. “All Eugene’s conference and event facilities work well together, and you can connect with local experts on any subject,” Ross says. “It is easy to put together a program of any size and nature.”