Le Conte Convention Center

The groundbreaking for the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge became a dual-purpose event when the city announced the first booking for the 232,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility.

The International Gift Exposition in the Smokies/Souvenir Super Show (IGES/SSS) is claiming 15 days in November 2013, just weeks after the scheduled completion of the $45 million structure.  “This show is a prime example of the type of event suited for the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge and a great demonstration of its ability to draw thousands of visitors who will patronize businesses all over town,” said Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear.  IGES/SSS started in Pigeon Forge in 2000 and moved into progressively larger private facilities in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg before consolidating in 2007 in the Sevierville Events Center. Organizers label it the largest wholesale souvenir, resort and gift expo in the U.S.  “We can hardly wait for 2013 because we will add the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge to our Sevierville operation, almost double our show and use more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space in each building,” said Jerry Mayer and Susan Mills, co-owners of M&M Expositions LLC, which conducts IGES/SSS.

The primary feature of the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge is a 100,500-square-foot, clear-span exhibit hall. It also will have a 12,000-square foot multi-purpose hall, a variety of multi-purpose meeting rooms that can be configured into various sizes, a catering kitchen, food and beverage locations and pre-function space.  It is designed to attract trade shows, competitive events and assemblies such as church-organized youth rallies.  “We have been sold out for some time and are accumulating a sizable waiting list of exhibitors,” Mills said. “We are elated by the cooperation we feel and see our show continuing to grow.”

The LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge is adjacent to a 1,600-space parking lot and next to the Pigeon Forge Riverwalk, the city’s greenway along the Little Pigeon River.  “More than three decades ago, Pigeon Forge leaders and citizens charted a course that made Pigeon Forge a year-round destination for leisure and group travel. Today’s groundbreaking for the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge keeps us on that successful course,” said Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster.

Mike Smelcer of SRA Architects in Pigeon Forge is the architect for the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, and Merit Construction Inc. in Knoxville is the general contractor. The center will operate as part of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.  “There are active negotiations with numerous other prospective clients for the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, and we anticipate announcing more contracts by next summer,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.

Site preparation will occupy the next 60 days, followed by installation of the building’s steel supports. It should be under roof approximately a year from now and ready for occupancy in late summer 2013.

About the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies/Souvenir Super Show

IGES/SSS began in Pigeon Forge in 2000 with 272 trade show booths. The show will have 507 exhibitors occupying 1,021 trade show booths and attract between 10,000 and 15,000 people to Sevier County.

Vendors from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. will show thousands of custom and name-dropped items to buyers seeking new and customizable merchandise appealing to tourists, corporate promotions, catalog sales, fundraisers and more.

The buyers represent resort and souvenir shops, museum stores, zoos and aquariums, airport gift shops, specialty stores, amusement parks, theme parks, national and state parks, cruise lines, hospital gift shops, water parks, beach shops, spas, catalog and online retailers and an array of other tourist attractions.

The show is open to wholesale buyers only, and proper credentials are required to enter.

“Our first show that incorporates the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge is Nov. 7-11, 2013, and we look forward to booking years into the future,” said expo organizer Susan Mills.