Halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso, two small cities have blended to make one West Texas destination: Midland/Odessa. Called “The Petroplex” by locals, thanks to its long history with the petroleum industry, this part of the semiarid Big Bend area of the state is on the edge of both the Texas Hill Country and the Panhandle Plains regions. Its central location in three counties of smaller towns makes Midland/Odessa a go-to spot for meetings and events.
Planners will find travel convenient in and out of Midland International Airport. The two cities combined provide over 550,000 square feet of meeting space, a range of hotels, and reliable vendors. You will also discover the main thing people notice about this area: the locals’ willingness to help. The biggest draw for planners and the most memorable moments for attendees will be the smiles and welcomes they get before, during, and after the event.
Odessa: More Than Oil
The West Texas region is best known for its oil production. “Most often, when visitors think of Odessa, images of packed football stadiums, oil derricks, and pump jacks come to mind,” says Ashley Flores, marketing and communication specialist for Discover Odessa. “While we are famously known for ‘Friday Night Lights’ and the oil and gas industry, Odessa has much more.”
With more than 300,000 square feet of meeting space, 50 hotel properties, and over 300 restaurants in Odessa, there is a place for everyone of all interests. The sleek and modern Odessa Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, with stone and wood accents throughout, provides 33,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. On-site dining, its downtown location, and a Starbucks in the lobby make logistics convenient for attendees.
Two food trucks-turned-restaurants are favorites for catering: Curbside Bistro and Brantley Creek Barbecue. “Curbside Bistro Chef Alejandro Barrientos has been on ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ and ‘Chopped,’” Flores says. It serves American food with a kick, including pulled pork sliders and jalapeno corn fritters. Brantley Creek Barbecue has been featured in Texas Monthly magazine—ribs are stiff competition in this state.
“The Ector County Coliseum has over 63,000 square feet [of space], accommodating approximately 4,000 to 6,000 [people] with five additional venue buildings throughout the property and an outback arena,” Flores says. Driving attendees will appreciate its location on Interstate Highway 20. Nearby, the MCM Grandé Hotel and Fundome offers table tennis, miniature golf, and an indoor-outdoor pool. The hotel can accommodate team-building excursions and has more than 17,000 square feet of flexible event space, including an outdoor pavilion. On-site catering and many bilingual staffers ensure all attendees are supported and feel included.
In between sessions, enjoy exploring Odessa’s thriving art scene. “Not only is Odessa the manufacturing center of the Permian Basin [the oil and gas producing region of West Texas],” Flores says, “but we are also home to a continuous number of public art projects and murals, and a revitalizing downtown area.”
Midland: Friendly Rivalry
The football rivalry that became the foundation of the “Friday Night Lights” book, movie, and television series started back in 1921, when the two towns met for an especially fierce game. While the high school teams still play hard when they face off, residents of both cities have now joined to promote their combined region.
With more than 250,000 square feet of meeting space, Midland offers options for meetings, seminars, and conferences. The Barbara and George H.W. Bush Convention Center, located downtown, has 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, 6,000 square feet of flexible ballroom space, and three 1,000-square-foot meeting rooms. Planners will find a lengthy list of approved caterers and audiovisual setups in every space.
Across the street, the DoubleTree by Hilton Midland Plaza has an on-site restaurant and lounge. Attendees can unwind at the rooftop bar overlooking Centennial Plaza. Reserve a block of the hotel’s 262 guest rooms, and plan small and midsize events in the hotel’s 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including an elegant ballroom and pre-function area.
Midland pays tribute to the region’s history with oil and gas through the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. The museum features artifacts and information going back millions of years in geological history, and it has rentable space for 20 to 2,000 attendees.
The Great Outdoors
Outdoor events in Midland/Odessa are opportunities to see the breathtaking sunsets across the plains and starry skies overhead. For a group wellness excursion in Midland, consider a hike on 49 acres of nature trails at Sibley Nature Center, or explore the 86-acre urban playa at the I-20 Wildlife Preserve, where you might see gophers, rabbits, lizards, and birds.
Hosting an event at a local ranch gives attendees a taste of Texas cowboy life. Rolling 7’s Ranch Event Center, established in 1928, is still a working ranch with chickens, horses, and cattle. It changed hands over the years, but in 2010, the current owners opened the barn and lawn for private events. Barn seating for 160, outdoor pavilion space for 200, and tables in front of the outdoor stage for 320—with room left over for a dance floor—give planners plenty of event options. “You can enjoy nature out here at the ranch,” says Manager Jessica Sanchez. “It’s quiet. You don’t share the venue with anyone else’s event. You get the whole ranch. Total privacy.”
Sanchez says what she loves about working events at the ranch and around Midland/Odessa is seeing attendees happy. “I love to see my clients smile, to be relaxed, and not stressed about their event,” she says.
Sounds like that famous West Texas smile is contagious.