Located at the front door of the most-visited national park in the nation—by a factor of two—Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is an entertainment and vacation dynamo that has bolstered its meetings bona fides with a couple major developments that increase its capacity potential.

The new city-owned LaConte Center at Pigeon Forge boasts 232,000 square feet of space with a 100,500-square-foot clear-span exhibit hall. Catering primarily to the assembly market and tradeshows, the facility opened last October and has made Pigeon Forge an option for larger groups.

“I think everybody is feeling the effect so far,” says Phil Campbell, facility manager for LaConte Center. “There wasn’t anything near this size in our city that could accommodate these groups, so it opens up a new market for us.”

Counted among the 15 groups that have already used the LaConte Center are quilters, cowboy aficionados and wilderness buffs. Association and SMERF groups, which often bring the family in tow can enjoy a pre- or post-meeting trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which offers free admission and hosts some 9 million visitors per year.

Among the religious-market groups who have recently enjoyed Pigeon Forge is the 6,500-attendee Women of Joy Conference, made up of young Christian women.

Augmenting the meetings-magnet of the new center, the city also opened a new entertainment district, The Island in Pigeon Forge. The first elements of this mixed-use restaurant, attraction, retail and lodging development, separated from LaConte by a 1,600-space parking garage, opened last year. Highlights include the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, which rotates up to six adults at a time in each of 42 gondolas 200 feet above the city, and the new Margaritaville Island Hotel Pigeon Forge, scheduled for a fall opening.

The new developments join the live entertainment theaters, restaurants, family-oriented attractions and Dollywood Theme Park.

“Our ad campaign actually dubs us as ‘The Land of More,’” Campbell says. “We have more restaurants, more attractions, more theaters. If you want it, we have more of it!”