There may be a hotel seller's market nationwide, but meetings are still being courted in the South-Central states, where billions of dollars are being spent on new hotels, venues, convention centers, and mass transit.
It's not just happening in St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; and Little Rock, Ark. Traditional secondary cities such as Wichita, Kan.; Hot Springs, Ark.; and Branson, Mo., are all ramping up hospitality projects.
In Oklahoma, for example, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau are conducting a study to address the future needs of the meetings market, including convention space. The past 18 months have seen the downtown capacity of hotel rooms more than double, to about 2,000 total rooms. During the next 12 months, the entire city's hotel inventory is expected to grow from 14,000 to more than 17,000.
In Branson, the convention center that opened last year has prompted nearby venues to create more space for meetings, which is a shift from a leisure-travel focus.
In Arkansas, the Hot Springs Convention Center in January was spruced up with new carpeting throughout the 360,000-square-foot facility and new furniture in the public areas. In Fort Smith, a 12,000-square-foot Downtown Events Center opened its doors April 1 with an audiovisual system, a full kitchen, and Internet/computer connections.
The all-new Crowne Plaza Little Rock offers 244 guest rooms and 10 meeting rooms.
A 142-room Holiday Inn is being built a block from the convention center in Hot Springs. It will have a 2,120-square-foot meeting room with a pre-function area of 1,000 square feet. Opening is scheduled for June 2009.
In Fort Smith, Holiday Inn City Center Downtown has finished a $6 million renovation of its 255 guest rooms.
Overland Park has 33 hotels and 5,112 rooms. Two new hotels are scheduled to open this year, adding 237 rooms, and six more are proposed, which offer 743 rooms in total. In nearby Leawood, two hotels are under construction, with openings planned for late this year and early 2009.
The first phase of the WaterWalk development along the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita includes retail space and an amphitheater, and plans to open later this year. It is adjacent to the 303-room Hyatt Regency Wichita and Century II Convention Center.
Hammons Hotels plans to build a luxury, all-suite hotel in Springfield connected to the Springfield Expo Center by early 2010.
University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield, with 39,000 square feet of meeting space, has renovated its 271 guest rooms.
The Kansas City Downtown Marriott finished phase one of a multimillion-dollar makeover that included 573 guest rooms. Phase two will renovate all 410 rooms in the historic Muehlebach Tower. The hotel has nearly 10,000 square feet of function space.
The 910-room Adam's Mark Hotel in St. Louis will become the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront.
The 672-room Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark has completed a $5 million renovation of 7,500 square feet of ballroom and meeting space.
St. Louis' Radisson Hotel & Suites Downtown is now a Crowne Plaza Hotel. The first phase of a $10 million room renovation is complete.
The 248-room Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis completed a $20 million renovation. The historic hotel is adding 55 rooms.
The Hyatt Regency St. Louis completed a $9.2 million renovation.
In the Clayton business district, the Radisson Clayton has been reflagged the Crowne Plaza St. Louis-Clayton. The hotel added 61 guest rooms and suites for a total of 257 rooms.
Branson Convention Center opened in September 2007. It has 220,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 23,000-square-foot ballroom. The 294-room Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel is an extension of the Branson Convention Center; in addition, the 242-room Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing is a block away.
The Sheraton Hotel Downtown Oklahoma City announced an expansion that will include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom.
Renovations are under way at the Tulsa Convention Center that will be completed in 2010 and will include a new 30,000-square-foot ballroom and an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting space. Upon completion, the center will house more than 250,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 106,000-square-foot exhibition hall.
Across from the convention center, Tulsa is on schedule to complete the $178 million, 550,000-square-foot Bank of Oklahoma Center in September. The multipurpose arena will have 18,500 seats and feature 37 luxury suites.
The St. Louis Convention Center MetroLink light rail station can deliver 6,400 people during a one-hour period prior to an event.
Kansas City's famous barbecue is served up at more than 100 restaurants. The city is also home to three James Beard award-winning chefs.
Kansas City is the only major city within 250 miles of both the geographic and population centers of the United States.
Overland Park, Kan., offers easy access to an international airport and is within a day's drive for more than 62 million people.
In downtown Tulsa, Okla., streets west of Main are named, alphabetically, for cities west of the Mississippi River. East of Main, streets are named for cities east of the Mississippi.
Ask the CVB
Fort Smith CVB
Hot Springs CVB
Little Rock CVB
Greater Wichita CVB
Overland Park CVB
Visit Topeka Inc.
Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB
Jefferson City CVB
Kansas City CVA
St. Louis CVC
Oklahoma City CVB
St. Louis offers motorcycle and car lovers two sites to rev their engines. The Moto Museum (www.themotomuseum.com) has more than 80 motorcycles, including rare and vintage bikes from Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Spain. Car buffs can check out the Kemp Auto Museum (www.kempautomuseum.org).
Regnier Center for Business and Technology in Overland Park, Kan., offers training rooms, computer labs, a 6,000-square-foot conference center that seats 350, and classrooms. www.centerforbusiness.org
Opened in October, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park includes a 200-seat auditorium and classrooms. http://gallery.jccc.net/nerman/
The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium can host events for 350 or more, including dinner around vintage aircraft, or a starry night presentation at the planetarium. www.tulsaairandspacemuseum.com.
Oklahoma Aquarium has 82,000 square feet of event space. www.okaquarium.org
In Stillwater, most planners choose The Atherton Hotel at Oklahoma State University when seeking something special. This upscale hotel is inside the OSU Student Union and is run by students in the Hotel and Restaurant Management School. There is nearly 30,000 square feet of meeting space. http://osu.okstate.edu/hospitality/