PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (April 15, 2013) – An event organizer who now has 18 major conferences across the U.S. told Pigeon Forge leaders more than a decade ago that he wished the city had more meeting space.
His wish has been granted with the nearly completed LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, and he has booked a conference that now attracts 8,000 people into the $45 million facility for five years, starting in 2014.
Phil Waldrep, founder of Phil Waldrep Ministries in Decatur, Ala., has committed a three-day Women of Joy conference to Pigeon Forge every April from 2014-2018.
“This was a small event that started in Pigeon Forge in 1998 and outgrew every facility in town. We first moved to Gatlinburg and then to Sevierville, but completion of the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge means we can have a happy homecoming to where we started,” Waldrep said.
The April event will join a smaller Women of Joy conference that uses space every March at the Smoky Mountain Convention Center. That meeting attracts approximately 1,200 people.
Six other large-attendance Women of Joy events happen in Louisville, Myrtle Beach, San Antonio, Orlando, Oklahoma City and Branson, Mo.
Waldrep described Women of Joy conferences as an interdenominational ministry that enhances and energizes the spiritual lives of Christian women. Their programs feature major speakers and top-of-the-charts contemporary Christian music performers.
Ten other Waldrep events are geared for adult men, seniors and students.
“Pigeon Forge is a great place for our events,” Waldrep said. “It is family-oriented and fun, and the natural beauty of the area is a pure delight. Our attendees like Pigeon Forge’s central location and the variety of restaurants and activities.”
Earlier this month, the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge announced that the 6,000-attendee Pentecostal Fire Youth Conference had booked space for five years, also starting in 2014.
The 232,000-square-foot LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge is on schedule for completion in September.
Its primary feature is a 100,500-square-foot clear-span exhibit hall designed for large assembly events, trade shows and competitive events. It can seat 12,116 in a configuration with a raised center stage that has every guest within 137 feet of the stage.
The facility’s first booking is for the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies/Souvenir Super Show in November.
“We knew Phil Waldrep loves Pigeon Forge, and we were delighted when he asked about bringing the Women of Joy back here,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
Tom Adkinson, APR