Aggressive growth and progressive leadership are the hallmarks of the Greater Chicago area in 2006. For starters, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority announced that it will open the new McCormick Place West Building in July 2007, eight months earlier than the original target date.
Next door in Schaumburg, Ill., the long-awaited Schaumburg Convention Center has been completed. And in nearby Hoffmann Estates, the Sears Centre Arena will be finished in October.
Chicago's hotel inventory is keeping pace with its meeting space and is projected to grow by 10 percent over the next three years. According to the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, the city's downtown hotel inventory of more than 30,000 rooms is poised to add 3,000 new hotel rooms by 2009. (Compare this to 5,000 rooms added over the last 10 years.) Additionally, the MPEA recently announced that it is exploring adding up to 600 rooms to the 800-room Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, adjacent to the convention center.
The Chicago area also has two new leaders. Tim Roby, a veteran hospitality industry sales and marketing executive, has been named president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. Roby fills the post left open last August when Chris Bowers departed. And, after nearly 21 years heading the Rosemont Convention Bureau, Peter Lombardi retired in February. Grant Bailey, assistant executive director of sales and marketing for the Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center, has been named acting executive director of the Rosemont Convention Bureau.
Construction has begun on MCCORMICK PLACE WEST. The project will add more than 800,000 square feet to the campus, including about 470,000 square feet of exhibit space and 250,000 square feet of meeting space in more than 60 meeting rooms, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom. The five-level facility will have a central concourse on each level that puts meeting rooms, the exhibit hall, business services, and common areas in close proximity. Completion is scheduled for July 2007.
The historic WHITEHALL HOTEL, downtown on the Magnificent Mile, has been restored to its original splendor. Its 21 guest rooms, including eight suites, offer high-speed Internet access as well as 310-thread count bed linens. The hotel has a total of 2,366 square feet of meeting space in six rooms.
The 250-room MANDARIN ORIENTAL is scheduled to begin construction near Millennium Park this year. Set for an early 2008 completion, the property will also house restaurants, retail shops, a spa, and 300 condominiums. Meeting space will include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and four meeting rooms.
The 286-room TRUMP TOWER CHICAGO HOTEL is under construction on the Chicago River. The $750 million building is slated for a 2008 completion.
The 183-room ELYSIAN HOTEL & PRIVATE RESIDENCES is scheduled to open in 2007. It will feature restaurants, boutiques, an 18,000-square-foot spa and health club, a private screening room, and views of the city and lakefront.
THE HOTEL BLAKE, a 161-room condominium-style hotel, opened in January. Units are available to rent when not occupied by the owners.
THE CROWNE PLAZA CHICAGO METRO HOTEL had its grand opening in May. In the West Loop near the Sears Tower, the 398-room facility features more than 8,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
THE FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON CHICAGO DOWNTOWN MAGNIFICENT MILE opened in June 2005. One block from the Magnificent Mile, the 246-room facility has 3,000 square feet of meeting space and a terrace for private functions.
The 362-room all-suite RENAISSANCE CHICAGO O'HARE HOTEL opened in February 2005. The 15-story hotel features more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom and up to 26 meeting rooms.
The 305-room MILLENNIUM KNICKERBOCKER HOTEL CHICAGO will undergo full guest room renovations in 2007.
Adjacent to the Magnificent Mile, the 415-room SOFITEL CHICAGO WATER TOWER features a ballroom and 10 meeting rooms for up to 330 people.
Ramada Plaza Hotel has undergone an extensive renovation, converting to a HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS. The property reopened in April.
The 300-room SOFITEL CHICAGO O'HARE is connected to the DONALD E. STEPHENS CONVENTION CENTER in Rosemont. The hotel's conference center has 15 meeting rooms (for up to 300 people), five function rooms, and a grand ballroom for up to 1,000. Stays include complimentary shuttles to O'Hare International Airport.
THE HILTON GARDEN INN — TINLEY PARK opened in March 2005. The 137-room hotel has 1,700 square feet of meeting space that includes a 15-seat boardroom and a 1,350-square-foot meeting/banquet room. A 24-hour business center and restaurant/bar are also on-site.
THE SCHAUMBURG CONVENTION CENTER has been finished. It includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 28,000-square-foot ballroom, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Supporting the convention center will be a 500-room MARRIOTT RENAISSANCE hotel with two boardrooms, eight meeting rooms, and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom.
The 242-room WYNDHAM LISLE-CHICAGO HOTEL AND EXECUTIVE MEETING CENTER will add a 7,000-square-foot, IACC-approved executive meeting center to its 21,000 square feet of meeting space. By completion at the end of this year, the conference center will also feature a refurbished lobby, restaurant, and 11,000-square-foot ballroom. It will have a business center and both wired and wireless Internet throughout the property.
The 411-room WESTIN HOTEL NORTH SHORE will open October 12 with 40,000 square feet of meeting space, a club-level lounge, business center, and kosher kitchen. It will be 15 minutes north of O'Hare International Airport.
THE SEARS CENTRE ARENA in Hoffman Estates is scheduled to open in October. The 12,000-seat multipurpose arena includes 40 suites and 1,000 club seats. It can host a wide range of events.
A 162-room COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT opened in August 2005 in Schaumburg with 3,100 square feet of meeting space in five conference rooms.
In spring 2005, the 312-room HYATT LISLE completed its meeting space expansion. The facility now has 20 meeting rooms, including two executive boardrooms, a 4,140-square-foot ballroom, and a 2,100-square-foot outdoor pavilion. The facility's meeting space totals 14,000 square feet.
The 269-room HOTEL ORRINGTON in Evanston opened its new 12,000-square-foot conference center in January 2005.
The 383-room MARRIOTT HICKORY RIDGE CONFERENCE HOTEL has added 10,000 square feet of meeting and breakout space. The facility offers 70 meeting rooms in 60,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel has partnered with the adjacent SEVEN BRIDGES GOLD CLUB to offer door-to-door golf cart service and special rates for hotel guests.
Ask the CVB
CHICAGO CONVENTION AND TOURISM BUREAU
Total Hotel Tax: 15.4%
CHICAGO SOUTHLAND CVB
(708) 895-8200; (888) 895-8233
Total Hotel Tax: Averages 10% in Southland communities
CHICAGO'S NORTH SUBURBS, PROSPECT HEIGHTS CVB
(847) 577-3666, ext. 304
Total Hotel Tax: 11%
(800) 232-0502, (630) 575-8070
Total Hotel Tax: 7% to 15%
LAKE COUNTY ILLINOIS CVB
(847) 662-2700, (800) 525-3669
Total Hotel Tax: 11% to 12%
(800) 733-9811, (630) 769-1000
Total Hotel Tax: 11%
ROSEMONT CONVENTION BUREAU
(847) 823-2100; www.rosemont.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%
GREATER WOODFIELD CVB
(800) 847-4849, (847) 490-1010
Total Hotel Tax: 9% to 17%
Looking for a good deal on public transportation? Consider a Chicago Transit Authority Visitor Pass. These unlimited ride passes are available in one-day ($5), two-day ($9), three-day ($12), and five-day ($18) increments. For advance sales, visit www.transitchicago.com. Visitor Passes can also be purchased at vending machines located at O'Hare, Midway, Chicago/State, Cumberland, and Rosemont rail stations and at the Water Works Visitor Information Center.
Need a hand planning your downtime in Chicago? Check out Chicago's Information Centers, located in the Chicago Cultural Center (77 East Randolph St.) and the Chicago Water Works Building (163 East Pearson St. at Michigan Avenue). The centers are open daily and provide friendly, knowledgeable ambassadors who are ready to answer questions and assist with planning visitors' itineraries.
Navigating downtown Chicago can seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Because Chicago is laid out in a grid pattern, it is easy to navigate. Starting at the intersection of State and Madison streets, blocks increase by 100 in each direction.
The INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF SURGICAL SCIENCE offers an elegant setting — with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan — for lectures, meetings, receptions, and dinners for up to 200 guests. Architectural highlights include Italian marble floors and fireplaces, 14-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, and a gilded metal grand staircase. All events are focused on the second floor's Hall of Immortals and Hall of Murals, while guests have the opportunity to stroll through the exhibits on the other floors. (312) 642-6502, ext. 3130; www.imss.org/hostevent.htm
In the mild months, a great venue for your lakeside reception or black-tie gala is a pavilion at BUCKINGHAM FOUNTAIN. Adjacent to the Grant Park Rose Gardens, Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest and most majestic fountains in the world. Up to 4,760 people can be accommodated. (312) 742-4838; www.chicagoparkdistrict.com
At CHICAGO INDOOR RACING in Buffalo Grove, Ill., you can hold your meeting in the morning and gear up for unforgettable www.chicagoindoorracing.comin the afternoon. Meeting facilities, accommodating up to 450 people reception-style, include built-in LCD projectors, wireless Internet access, and award-winning catering. But it's the racing your group will most remember. After donning race jumpsuits, they'll compete against one another to reach that checkered flag. (847) 941-9400;
It wouldn't be a trip to Chicago without attending TONY ‘N’ TINA'S WEDDING (where the bride and groom are celebrating 13 years). Private showings can be customized to your group. Visit in July, and you might even see Frankie Avalon in the cast. He's made a tradition of performing during the last week of the month. (312) 664-8844; www.tonyntina.com
Nurture your group's competitive spirit at the FACTORY PAINTBALL ARENA in North Chicago. Located in a 50,000-square-foot historic building, the retro-industrial décor will help to make a unique event. Staff teach up to 200 participants how to play arena paintball, and then it's off to one of three indoor arenas. (847) 473-2400; www.factorypb.com
Take a Break
The Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau has announced the “Take a Break” meeting program. Groups booking new meetings through the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau will receive a $500 incentive for holding their meetings in the region.
For more information or to take advantage of the savings, call Mary Patchin at (888) 895-8233.
The Morton Arboretum (www.mortonarb.org) in Lisle, Ill., is one of the world's foremost public gardens, noted for its exceptional plant collections from all over the world. Open year-round, the arboretum features a 36,000-square-foot visitor center with two pavilions joined by a covered gateway. In 2005, the 1,700-acre arboretum added a Maze Garden, featuring seven “plant rooms” for visitors to explore, and a four-acre, interactive Children's Garden opened for children ages 2 through 10.