BILLINGS — The old Carmike theater on Overland Avenue is in the middle of a transformation into a 22,500-square-foot convention center. And in a few years, a new Marriot Courtyard hotel will be next door.
David Veeder’s convention center on the West End is about eight months away from completion, and community members can’t wait.
“I get calls now from people who are waiting for it to get opened up,” said Veeder on Tuesday.
Veeder said there’s a significant demand for an event center like his, which will boast seven meeting rooms. Alex Tyson, executive director of Visit Billings, the tourism arm of the chamber of commerce, agrees.
“Meetings and conventions are probably about 15 to 18 percent of our overall tourism industry in Billings,” said Tyson.
Tyson said that over 2.6 million people visit Billings each year, spending $620 million in town. The need is great for both the event center and a new hotel.
“His hotel next door, that Marriot property, will be very important to us. We have three other hotels right now that will be opening in addition to that,” Tyson said.
The Marriot Courtyard will have 137 rooms, but it won’t be open for another two to three years.
“It fits this area very well, and so we’re expecting a lot of business from it as well as for it. But also over here at the event center,” said Veeder.
Veeder said the event center will be like nothing Billings has seen before.
“It’s going to be technically very high class. Can’t find that really very close to Billings,” said Veeder.
It’ll have a pre-function area, a coffee bar, and will offer catering from local businesses.
“It will also be able to handle, as a for-instance, a farmer or agricultural event. We can take tractors in the event center pre-function area over here,” Veeder said.
He has yet to name the event center but has a couple of ideas floating around, and he believes it’ll be used by people all over the region.
“If you do something that’s good for people, and they like it. And you were really right, it was good for people, good people come. We’ve got a lot of good people here. And I think they’ll all show up,” said Veeder.