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Planning a Faith-Based Conferencein Bryan College Station

My unexpected encounter with a big-hearted college town

By Ashley Donde

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For some, it’s Christmas. For others, it’s their birthday. For me, it’s the annual women’s conference — my favorite event of the year. I’ve been attending the same women’s conference for more than 15 years. It’s a time of fellowship, renewal, and encouragement for women from churches throughout southeast Texas. This year, I was honored to be asked to help plan it. I had big shoes to fill, but — ever the true Texas woman—I was up for the challenge.

I recruited my friend Kristin — a Texas A&M grad — to help me. The first thing she said was, “It’s got to be in Bryan College Station.” After gushing about the campus and friendly community, she convinced me to take a scouting trip to Bryan College Station.

That Texas Charm

During the 90-minute-drive from Houston, Kristin filled me in on her experience in Bryan College Station and answered some of my questions about the area. My first concern was the environment. Would a college town be welcoming to a large group coming for a faith-based event?

“Trust me, feeling welcome won’t be an issue,” she said. She told me about a campus ministry, “Breakaway,” and how it draws thousands of students to their weekly gatherings in Reed Arena. “Having people of faith on campus is something students and locals are used to,” she said.

She described the overall community vibe, with charming antique shops and tantalizing restaurants in Historic Downtown Bryan. She also mentioned that a new hotel opened on campus, making holding an event there convenient for attendees. I had an overview of the community before we’d even toured a venue. But, being responsible for finding the perfect place to host 1,000 women for a conference many of them looked forward to all year, I needed to be sure Kristin’s fond memories lived up to the hype.

Reed Arena Versatile and accommodating

As soon as we arrived on campus, Kristin pulled out a binder. Ever the organized woman, she had printed out info on all the venues as a handy way to have all the logistical details at our fingertips.

Reed Arena was our first stop. “I saw the Dixie Chicks perform here years ago,” Kristin said, as we walked into the building on the west side of campus. The arena was huge — and versatile, hosting Texas A&M basketball games, conventions, Breakaway gatherings, and concerts. Kristin flipped open her binder.

“It can seat 1,800 for a banquet, which would be more than enough to accommodate our formal dinner on the last evening,” she said.  “The Breakaway group closes off half the space when they meet, so it doesn’t feel cavernous when it’s not completely filled,” she added. A good thing to note, because at full capacity, Reed Arena can seat nearly 13,000.

“If our conference continues to grow, there will still be plenty of room for everyone,” she grinned.

“In the past, we had to limit registration to the first 1,000 women because the venues we chose couldn’t accommodate more,” I told her. “This year, my goal is to ensure that no woman will be turned away.”

Ford Hall of Champions Warm and inviting

A five-minute walk from Reed Arena is the Ford Hall of Champions, inside Kyle Field, the football stadium. As we walked inside, I immediately fell in love with the look and feel. Spacious, at nearly 30,000 square feet, there was plenty of room to spread out, but the facility’s maroon ceiling created a sense of warmth and made the room feel more intimate. I could easily picture our attendees enjoying themselves here. “The university provides catering, audio visual equipment and support,” Kristin said, “and, the room can seat 1,200 in banquet seating,” she added, reading from her binder.

“I am liking this space,” I told her.

“Another great thing about choosing an on-campus venue is we can save if we book through Experience Bryan College Station, with their Preferred Access Agreement,” Kristin said, showing me a page from her binder.

“I couldn’t plan this event without you,” I told her, giving her a hug. I looked over her binder. “What’s the Memorial Student Center like?”

“Let’s grab a bite to eat, and then I’ll show you,” she said. We headed to Century Square, across from campus. There were so many options for lunch and dinner, plus specialty shops, I could see our conference attendees loving the choices. I knew no one would leave disappointed.

More Ways to Save on Meetings
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HOT Grant

preferred access agreement

Through the Hotel Occupancy Tax Grant Program, events promoting tourism and impacting hotel/convention business are now able to apply for funds from Bryan College Station.

Through Bryan College Station’s Preferred Access Agreement (PAA) with Texas A&M University, rental costs may be discounted when a planner books one of the university’s state-of-the-art venues through Experience Bryan College Station or Bryan College Station Sports + Events.

Memorial Student CenterSophisticated and energizing

After lunch, we headed to the Memorial Student Center, on the central campus, conveniently located right next door to the new Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, and with 60 more hotels to choose from within a short drive. The building was a hub of activity, with meeting rooms, a food court, and comfortable lounges and break areas. We were here to see Bethancourt Ballroom, the largest ballroom in the Brazos Valley. When we walked inside, I immediately got a good feeling.

“This might be it, but give me the details,” I said to Kristin.

“The ballroom can seat 1,700 lecture style, and 992 banquet. The room can also be divided into five spaces, which we could use for break-out sessions,” Kristin told me. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I was beginning to see just how perfect Bryan College Station was for our conference. From the deep burgundy carpet to the elegant, muted backlighting, this space was a home run. Plus, if we booked this or any of the on-campus spaces, attendees could stay right next door at the new hotel and walk to everything, including Century Square for lunch, dinner and shopping. A quick look at reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor told me it was highly rated and the rooms had personal touches like lavender diffusers. The women would love it. I looked at Kristin and gave her two thumbs up.

“I love it too, but I have one more place to show you,” she said, ushering me on to our final venue.

Brazos County Expo Complex Spacious and hospitable

A 15-minute drive from campus is the Brazos County Expo Complex. The huge space was designed to host everything from rodeos to weddings. Kristen led me to the ballroom. “It has 11,000 square feet, plus smaller spaces we can use for breakout sessions. There is also a 28,000 square-foot exhibition hall that can seat 1,900 for a banquet,” Kristin explained, referring to her binder. “And, The Stella Hotel is just a seven-minute drive away.”

A quick look at the reviews on my phone, I saw that the hotel had views of the lake and premium amenities and was close to everything but had a secluded resort feel. The women would feel like V.I.P.s staying there. 

The final verdict

On our scouting trip, I was hoping for one venue to pan out. Instead, I discovered four great options. No matter what I decided, I knew one thing for sure: Bryan College Station was the perfect place to host our next conference. Between charming Downtown Bryan, with its wonderful boutiques and restaurants, to the friendly, welcoming vibe of College Station, I knew our conference attendees would feel welcome and comfortable and enjoy exploring the area. would feel like V.I.P.s staying there. 

Technical stats of meeting venues
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Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center

177 Joe Routt Blvd.
College Station, TX 77840

(979) 260-2308

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Hilton College Station & Conference Center

801 University Drive East
College Station, TX 77840

(979) 693-7500

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The Stella Hotel

4100 Lake Atlas
Drive Bryan, Texas 77807

(979) 421-4000

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Embassy Suites College Station

201 University Drive
East College Station, TX 77840

(979) 260-6000

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Cavalry Court

200 Century Court
College Station, Texas 77840

(979) 485-5586

(844) 313-7337

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room capacity charts

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