My fam tour of Irving last November began with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at the city’s new indoor-outdoor Pavilion concert venue. Among the songs was “It Don’t Come Easy,” the Beatle drummer’s first solo hit from 1971—an apt reference for the challenging decade-long transformation of the corporate-centric Las Colinas Urban Center into a tourism destination.

With more than a little help from friends and partners, however, the 40-acre, mixed-use district is nearly complete, giving Irving a rocking new identity.
Configurable for 2,500-, 4,000- and 8,000-capacity events, lawn seating included, the Live Nation-operated Pavilion is part of the $173 million, 250,000-square-foot Irving Music Factory at Las Colinas entertainment district.

Scheduled for this February, other components include a 50,000-square-foot outdoor plaza with seven stages; an eight-screen Alamo Drafthouse Cinema; and 25 food and beverage outlets. Of these, six are original restaurants, bars and lounges forming part of Big Beat Dallas, a concept from Billy Bob Barnett, founder of Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, which also includes a farmers market.

Music is an essential part of Irving’s new identity, purposefully extended beyond the district to venues like the event-capable Texas Musicians Museum and Outlaw, the taproom and outdoor patio at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, our fam hotel (see this month’s “Mastering the Multigenerational Mix” feature, page 25). It’s also integral to programming on the plaza, where every day, year-round, musicians will perform from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. It’s free until the evening, when paid performances begin. On hot days, a giant canvas roof emblazoned with the Texas flag will be raised over the plaza.

Nearby is the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. Visually and functionally, this LEED Silver-certified venue, opened in 2011, is a showstopper. Clad in 150 tons of copper—the equivalent of 46 million pennies—the SMG-managed facility can host three concurrent shows on three vertically stacked levels, including the 50,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall and stunning top-level, 20,000-square-foot ballroom with 10,000 square feet of prefunction space.

Now rising between the convention center and entertainment complex, the $113 million Westin Irving Convention Center Hotel completes the district. Slated to open in late 2018, the 350-room property will offer 16,000 square feet of space, 10,000-square-foot ballroom included.

“Irving always had the advantage of an excellent location with a wide range of quality accommodations, that was a given,” said Irving CVB Executive Director Maura Allen Gast. “But for off-site or after-hours activities, we often found ourselves also selling the assets of surrounding cities. The convention center, entertainment district and many other developments across Irving have changed all that. We can now lead with a message all our own, one that is strong and vibrant and encompassing our clients’ varied needs. It’s a real game-changer.”

Founded in 1903 as a rail link between Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving’s centralized location is a major advantage for groups. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is just minutes away, including convenient service via the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Orange Line into Las Colinas. And as our fam revealed, Irving’s playlist extends to a medley of choices.  

Before the concert, we dined at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, among the first of Music Factory’s planned restaurants. Access to the Pavilion was via private entrance into the group-capable VIP Lounge. The next day, we visited the famed The Mustangs of Las Colinas, the stirring bronze sculpture of nine wild mustangs galloping across a stream and cover shot for our 2017 Meetings Texas supplement. Under construction across the street, the multiuse Water Street development will feature 20,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space along Lake Carolyn.

With the country’s most diverse zip code, Irving’s dining scene spans the globe, from Mongolian to our Mexican lunch at La Margarita. History is served in the Downtown Irving Heritage Crossing District, where we toured the Texas Musicians Museum with its director, Tom Kreason. The spirits of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other deceased Texas greats come alive in the fascinating collection of memorabilia, which also includes living legends such as Willie Nelson. Access to the exhibits is included for groups renting the 125-capacity indoor space, featuring a giant guitar on the ceiling and 650-person outdoor Music Garden.

Down the block, Big State Fountain Grill, which opened in the early 1900s as a haberdashery and converted into a drug store in 1948, is a memorabilia-rich local institution serving old-fashioned fountain treats and other menu items. Groups also have a prime dining choice in The Ranch Las Colinas, featuring live music, vintage neon signs and private banquet rooms. And while Irving’s Texas Stadium, legendary home of the Dallas Cowboys during all five of their Super Bowl championships, is no more, we finished the visit seeing “America’s Team” defeat the Kansas City Chiefs at cavernous AT&T Stadium.