Having worked at the Boise CVB for over 30 years (and lived in the city for nearly 50), Terry Kopp has seen her fair share of changes. From a small-scale city without department stores to a bustling second-tier city with an expanded convention center and new hotels popping up left and right (quite literally—Inn at 500 Capitol and The Residence Inn are neighbors downtown), Boise is on its way to becoming meeting planners first choice when selecting an event destination. Connect chatted with Kopp, the CVB’s director of sales, to get her thoughts on Boise’s developing MICE industry.
Having lived in Boise for nearly 50 years, how have you seen the city grow?
When I was growing up, we were a city of maybe 20,000 to 30,000. When I started at Boise State University—it was actually Boise College, it wasn’t a university until my freshman year—there were maybe 6,000 students and now we have over 20,000 students.
I started at the bureau in ’82, so I’d say in the late ‘80s, closer to the early ‘90s downtown Boise started getting restaurants and some boutique shops right down on 8th Street in that core center area. At the same time, the convention center was being built. It opened in January 1990. So, once the convention center opened and we started getting some fun little restaurants and different shopping, things just slowly started happening.
What trends have you noticed emerge in Boise in the past year?
Some of the clients I’ve worked with over the past six to eight months want more than just a meeting experience for their attendees. They also want a city experience. If they have an afternoon free where they can do something, [we may recommend] World Center for Birds of Prey. I think more and more people are into a healthier lifestyle, too, so we always point them to the Greenbelt or the foothills. Depending on the weather [we may recommend] biking or floating the river. It’s all that kind of stuff. Our golf courses also stay open year-round. So, you can golf during the day and ski at night in the spring.
How do you help planners select venues?
In most cases, we find out what their needs are and what their meeting agenda looks like and if they say, “We have one night we’d like to do an event and we’d like to do something different from the meeting location,” [we may recommend the Basque Block.] The great thing about the Basque Block is you can immediately eliminate transportation, which is a huge budget cost for clients, because they can walk to the Basque Block from the downtown hotels or convention center. But it also depends. We give them a menu of choices, like the Old Idaho Penitentiary for really cool for events or the Stueckle Sky Center that looks out over the Boise State Football blue turf. I know when I go places, it’s nice to go somewhere different.
Why was there a need to expand the Boise Centre?
It was filling up and there were some new hotel rooms coming, but we needed bigger convention space to keep the capacity and occupancies up there. It was kind of a chicken and the egg—you expand before you have the inventory and then you have the inventory so you expand.
How has the new Boise Centre expansion helped attract more groups?
Now when we meet with clients we can say we have this much space (more than 80,000 square feet) and can accommodate two conventions at the same time or one large convention. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists with more than 1,500 people helped put us on the map because it was so large. With a convention center our size and a group that size, they’re a big fish a small fish pond. They’re really the only big game in town and that’s really nice for some groups.