Ongoing infrastructure upgrades in the city of Birmingham, Alabama, coupled with major water damage to one of the two convention hotels for the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, have added a layer of complexity to parking, transportation, and lodging options for convention attendees, according to Bill Townes, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Convention finance.
“While each host city offers unique opportunities and challenges, we recognize that recently announced ongoing infrastructure upgrades in the city of Birmingham will enhance the need to diligently examine additional parking and transportation options for attendees, including the use of shuttle buses,” Townes said.
The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau (GBCVB) is helping the EC negotiate parking and ground transportation issues for the annual meeting and has provided a grant to the SBC to help off-set the cost of transportation for overflow hotels, Townes said.
“We continue to work with the GBCVB team to facilitate these issues,” he said, “and are very appreciative of their dedication and service.
“We [are also] working with our local arrangements committee in Birmingham, representing Alabama Baptist church, association, and state board of mission leaders to continue to address these issues and come up with creative solutions to assist our attendees.”
Responding to concerns posted on the SBC Voices blog by some who were “wait-listed” when the online reservations portal opened on October 12, Townes provided a written explanation.
“In September, we were notified that the Sheraton experienced catastrophic water damage that resulted in a loss of over four hundred rooms to our contracted room block at the Sheraton,” Townes wrote, “resulting in a nearly 60 percent drop in available rooms at the Sheraton.”
Within four minutes of online reservation availability on October 12, all available rooms were booked at the two main convention hotels connected to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Townes said.
The Executive Committee has lodging contracts with thirty-seven Birmingham hotels; but the two convention hotels were immediately sold out, he said.
“The Sheraton has been extremely helpful in securing additional hotel rooms throughout the city and is also going to provide shuttle assistance,” Townes said. “With all of the inconvenience to us, we need to [keep] the staff of the Sheraton in our prayers as they are experiencing these same conversations over and over with multiple groups.”
In addition to helping those who had difficulty registering find alternative lodging, Experient, which manages the reservation process for the Executive Committee, made a contribution of $2,500 to SBC ministries through the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
In May the Alabama Department of Transportation announced that the Interstate 59 and 20 bridges in downtown Birmingham will be closed for an estimated eighteen months beginning in September 2018. The construction was originally scheduled for completion earlier this year.
Despite these challenges, Birmingham, a central southern hub, remains an optimal location for Southern Baptist participation, Townes said.
“The location of Birmingham in close proximity to many Southern Baptist churches should result in excellent attendance,” he said.
Southern and southeastern states historically have drawn the highest messenger attendance, according to EC data.
SBC messengers in 2014 approved Birmingham as the 2019 meeting site, the first time the SBC will convene there since 1941.
2019 SBC Annual Meeting Reminders
To ensure the orderly flow of attendees and enhance security of the convention hall, each messenger, exhibitor, and guest must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11–12.
“SBC ANNUAL MEETINGS” APP—updates will be made as information becomes available—stay connected by downloading the 2019 “SBC Annual Meetings” app from the Play Store or App Store.
HOTEL RESERVATIONS can be secured by going to www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
PRESCHOOL CHILDCARE for children birth through five years will once again be provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Childcare teams Sunday through Wednesday. Registration for all children/youth events will open on Friday, February 1, 2019, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. Registration will close on Friday, May 17, 2019. Space is limited to 100 children and pre-registration is REQUIRED—there will be NO on-site registration.
GIANT COW MINISTRIES will again provide activities for children ages 6–12 Sunday through Wednesday—registration will open on Friday, February 1, 2019, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. A special thanks to WMU for providing missions education as part of the curriculum.
YOUTH ON MISSION for those children who have completed grades 7–12 will be provided again by WMU Tuesday and Wednesday—registration will open on Friday, February 1, 2019, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. Registration will close on Friday, May 17, 2019. Space is limited to 100 youth and pre-registration is REQUIRED—there will be NO on-site registration.
MESSENGER PRE-REGISTRATION will open on Friday, February 1, 2019, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
For more information and to register for these activities, visit www.sbcannualmeeting.net.