by Stephanie Gardner
Virtual Assistant, Visit Tyler
Next year, there will be one more reason to meet in the Rose City. The City of Tyler is set to open the W.T. Brookshire Conference Center, a new state-of-the-art facility at the Tyler Rose Complex, constructed where Harvey Hall once stood. Since the early 1970s, Harvey Hall has welcomed a variety of events to Tyler, from conferences to car shows to weddings and even a square-dancing convention! Of course, the most notable of all events held on this site is the Texas Rose Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors every October. The addition of a newly expanded and revitalized Conference Center is the long-anticipated next step in furthering the Tyler Rose legacy.
With thousands of rose bushes, the Tyler Rose Garden is the number one attraction in Tyler and the largest rose garden in America. The garden hosts thousands of visitors annually and has a massive economic impact on the community. As the Rose City continues to grow, so does the opportunity to attract more visitors by offering larger, updated meeting and event facilities that compete with metropolitan markets. The new Rose Complex will give our crown jewel, the Tyler Rose Garden, a facelift while increasing tourism, boosting economic development, and improving the quality of life for residents.
Centrally located in Northeast Texas, Tyler is a hub for the region and easily accessible to several major cities like Dallas and Shreveport, which makes it the perfect location to host groups for conventions and tours. The new Rose Complex will position Tyler as a destination experience for visitors and locals alike. The City’s goal is to cultivate a distinct, all-inclusive atmosphere by combining 60,000 total square feet of footage in the entire Complex, nestled among the natural beauty of Tyler, with the best lodging, dining, shopping, and entertainment scene in East Texas.
The Master Plan
In 2016, the City of Tyler began working on a Master Plan for the area with Halff Associates, focusing on what makes Tyler unique and why people want to visit. This document, developed with input from the community, became the guide for the future of the Rose Complex. The Rose Complex includes the W.T. Brookshire Conference Center, the Rose Garden Center, East Texas State Fairgrounds, the Mayfair building, Mike Carter Field, and surrounding areas. As part of the Master Plan, a new convention center is being built in the center of the Complex, with a large, landscaped greenspace in the front to create an impressive, inviting entrance. Attractive and efficient meeting spaces indoors and outdoors will aid Tyler in recruiting larger conventions to the region, as well as in hosting more community events for locals to enjoy. The improvements will also increase mobility, parking, safety, athletic facilities, and neighborhood connectivity. The historic Mayfair Building, a performing arts venue built in 1927, that in its heyday hosted the likes of Elvis and Johnny
Cash, is also slated to be revitalized as part of the Master Plan. In addition to the new conference facilities and the restoration of the Mayfair Building, future phases will include, parking lot improvements and additions, as well as the construction of a food truck park. The $28 million project is being funded by monies set aside from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, the Half-Cent Sales Tax Fund, private donations, and a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In 2020, the City teamed up with Fitzpatrick Architects to design phase one of the Rose Complex renovation, which features the new conference center. The facility is sure to offer attendees a conference experience like no other! The unique design brings the outdoor beauty of the Rose Garden indoors. With large scenic views, each meeting will come alive with the beauty of the area showcased throughout the meeting spaces.
WRL Construction broke ground on phase one of the Rose Complex project in 2021, and they anticipate finishing the W.T. Brookshire Conference Center very soon. The new facility is named after W.T. Brookshire, who established Brookshire’s Grocery nearly a century ago in Downtown Tyler. Today, about 19,000 employees make up the company in almost 200 stores across Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. This same Texas spirit of progress, excellent customer service, and community development is at the heart of the Rose Complex project, making the partnership between the City of Tyler and the Brookshire family the perfect pairing.
What Tourism Means to Tyler
Following the pandemic, the tourism industry in Tyler has managed to bounce back to record numbers higher than what Tyler experienced before 2020. Last year alone, Tyler’s Visitor Center welcomed 20,000 visitors! Beyond sharing our rich history and natural beauty for the enjoyment of others, tourism has a big impact on our community and the lives of our residents. In 2021, visitors spent $232.9 million on lodging, restaurants, groceries, transportation, attractions, entertainment, and shopping. Those dollars go a long way to support local small businesses and create jobs. To be exact, tourism supported 2,900 local jobs that totaled $84.4 million in wages last year. With the renovation and expansion of the Rose Complex, the positive impacts made by the tourism industry will continue to increase in Tyler.
Visit Tyler, the destination marketing arm for Tyler, offers free services to both local and outside groups wanting to host their meetings in Tyler.
The Future is Rosy
As we look forward to the opening of the new W.T. Brookshire Conference Center, we hope you will join in our excitement for all that the new Rose Complex will bring to Tyler. Imagine spending a Saturday morning strolling through the Rose Garden, followed by a picnic on the Complex lawn, catching an afternoon lecture in the Conference Center, and then watching a concert on the outdoor stage, all in one place! All of those experiences and more await us in this new season for the Rose City.
For more information about the W.T. Brookshire Conference Center and the hosting of a meeting in Tyler, visit