Mayor Donald Stephens is the only mayor that Rosemont--a small town outside of Chicago, just one mile from O'Hare International Airport--has ever had. He celebrated 40 years in office in 1996, having been there when the town incorporated in 1956 with only 84 residents. The mayor has certainly put his community on the meetings and conventions map, giving it another claim to fame: Rosemont has more hotel rooms than people (4,300 residents, 4,614 hotel rooms).
"If you follow transportation history," he says, "you notice that areas that were transportation hubs grew--first around rivers, then around the railroads. It followed that airports would be the next big transportation hubs, and their surrounding towns would become business centers," says Stephens, who knew decades ago that the farmland and swampland within spitting distance of O'Hare might someday be quite valuable.
He was right. Today, Rosemont attracts five times as many people as there are residents to do business at the Rosemont Convention Center and surrounding hotels. Convention organizers looking to avoid the traffic and higher prices in downtown Chicago find Rosemont particularly attractive.
Back in the 1970s, Stephens convinced Hyatt Hotels to build the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont because Hilton had a hotel at the airport. "I knew there were brief meetings in hotels, short stays of one or two nights," says Stephens. "The Hyatt was going to build a 100,000-square-foot convention center for the hotel, but I convinced them to let us build the center, which would serve the community better." Today, the Rosemont Convention Center has 650,000 square feet of function space, and Stephens envisions it increasing to one million square feet in the near future.
"We will need another 1,000 to 1,500 hotel rooms with the next center expansion," says Stephens. Four hotels are in the works, to open by 1998, including an all-suite property and another four-star property. The largest will have 400 rooms.
Stephens has been an advocate of a people-moving system for some time, and Rosemont will see the fruits of those labors as well. The town has been chosen as the only site in Illinois to offer PRT 2000, a monorail that will connect the hotels to the convention center.