Brand Story – History, hospitality and high-tech facilities make Pendleton Convention Center a hub for special experiences.
In the heart of the Northwest—centered between Portland, Boise, Spokane, Bend and Seattle—Pendleton, Oregon, has been a magnet for large-scale, quality events for over 100 years. A main draw, aside from the historical town itself, is the Pendleton Convention Center (PCC), providing visitors with an experience not found in urban hubs.
“We are a very divergent opportunity for someone who wants to get away from the traffic and hustle and bustle of big cities, and we’re just an easy drive away,” says Pat Beard, Manager, Pendleton Convention Center. “Pendleton, while being a small Eastern Oregon town, knows how to accommodate, host and throw parties.”
…Big parties. Each year, the frontier town hosts the Pendleton Round-Up, welcoming 60,000 visitors, while the Pendleton Whiskey Music Fest brings another 30,000. With a population of just under 17,000, Pendleton and its Convention Center are no strangers to punching above their weight.
While the Conference Center embraces Pendleton’s living history to deliver unique experiences, its infrastructure is of the future. The town boasts the fastest WIFI in Oregon, capable of supporting the digital demands of massive events and local corporations.
“It’s been my commitment and my goal that when someone walks through the front door, that customer service, audiovisuals and food rival any facility anywhere,” Beard adds. “A large number of companies are based out of here, so our WIFI is incredible. Whatever technical needs you have for streaming events, we can handle them with ease.”
During the pandemic, the Pendleton Convention Center augmented its virtual and streaming equipment. Due to the increased importance of distance meetings, all of its rooms now feature 360-degree owl cameras that facilitate live-stream events and allow groups to connect off-site.
“The PCC team is amazing. Very easy to work with and right on the ball when something is needed in a session or for a speaker,” explains Stephanie Green, Chapter Administrator, American Planning Association Oregon Chapter (OAPA). “We did a hybrid event and had lots of technical stuff going on, and it all worked really well.”
Travelers drawn to the PCC for a conference quickly feel the pull of the town’s western charm and history. A group itinerary could include a visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mills or a tour through the Pendleton Underground, a subterranean city bigger than Portland’s or Seattle’s.
According to Beard, the Convention Center’s appeal largely stems from the town it calls home. Pendleton itself is a travel destination: “It’s a collision of history, cultures and art. The Umatilla, Walla Walla and Cayuse tribes have been here over 10,000 years. We’ve learned our hospitality from them.”
Green, who is in charge of event planning for the OAPA, agrees that the small town creates a welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
“Everyone knows everyone. Not only are you working with PCC, you are working with Pendleton in general,” Green notes. “The PCC staff are very in tune with the community so if you have ideas, they can make them happen or help you reach out to the right people in the community.”
To help its clients—private individuals, organizations and event planners—achieve the perfect event, the PCC’s three-person event planning team walks them through every option, addressing transportation, day-of event planning, sightseeing, entertainment, catering and beyond.
“We’re used to working with customers and event planners. A lot of people have never done an event, so we work even harder to help them understand what we can do,” Beard explains. “It’s great working with people who have been here before because they already know what they can expect. We’re able to adapt to help anyone.”
Behind the scenes, the Pendleton Convention Center can handle setup and takedown, room décor, clean up and maintenance during the event and technical management. Its highly skilled on-staff light and sound engineers stand ready to elevate any occasion, armed with the latest equipment.
With 40,000 square feet of space, the Pendleton Convention Center hosts over 400 diverse events, many of them fixtures on the annual calendar: Its main hall converts into an NBA basketball court for the State 2A Basketball Championships, and then into a show ring for a massive horse auction. It welcomes large corporate conferences, like the State Nurses’ Association, and important fundraisers, like the Eastern Oregon Cancer Center Soiree.
Its cozy, historical spaces are the backdrop for more intimate gatherings, from weddings to holiday parties. The Happy Canyon room, with its warm, lodge-like atmosphere complete with impressive woodwork and masonry, recently underwent a remodel, making it a popular choice. A 4000-person outdoor arena takes advantage of the region’s weather and is the premier spot for presentations and performances, rivalled only by the Vert: an 800-seat theater built in 1936.
With so many options to choose from, the dedicated customer service team helps clients design their ideal visitor experience from start to finish or, as Beard would say, from finish to start.
“It generally begins with a phone call where we discuss what you are hoping for. We begin at the end if you will. We look at the outcome. What’s the goal? What to you would be a successful event?” he explains. “We’re not just putting them in a space where everyone fits, but a space that feels right.”
The popular event center never stops evaluating and improving, recently partnering with a new inhouse catering company run by local Missy Fairbank, founder of the Pendleton Catering Company.
“It’s a gamechanger,” Beard says. “She gets community and is so hands on. Her catering company is extraordinary with regard to personal touch. The incredible staff just puts everyone at ease.”
The wider Pendleton food scene offers every kind of eating and drinking experience visitors could want: fine dining, breweries, cafes, bars, casual eateries and diners. To support the regular influx of visitors, Pendleton features 1,500 motel rooms and 50 Airbnbs, many within walking distance to the Convention Center. Via a commercial airport, travelers can fly from Portland in just 45 minutes on Boutique Air, with the flight doubling as a scenic tour.
“This was our first in-person conference since 2019, and we had a great turn out, great service, great pricing and our attendees thoroughly enjoyed the conference,” Green recalls. “The PCC really works with you as the planner. They want you to feel like family while you are there.”
Whether partnering with first-time event organizers or Pendleton Convention Center regulars, Beard and his team look forward to helping clients discover all that the town and facility have to offer.
“We’re committed to customer service. When people come through our front door, we take away the worry of putting on an event,” Beard concludes. “They now have an entire staff working for them.”
Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.