Just five minutes from O'Hare Airport, sitting at the confluence of three highways, Rosemont, Ill.'s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center has a reputation for accessibility … that is, unless you mean online accessibility. In that case, until January of this year, things were not quite up to speed. “We went from just about zero to what we have today,” says Peter Lombardi, executive director for the Rosemont Convention Bureau. “Instead of doing it in phases, we took the major step.”
That step involved bringing in the WindStar Group out of Chicago to design and implement a fiber-optic network infrastructure with full redundancy. The new network supports gigabit Ethernet, high-speed WANs, Virtual Private Networks, and Voice-Over IP. Most recently, the center installed wireless high-speed access in its 30,000-square-foot lobby.
The center is linked to the Internet with a “burstable” DS-3 line, meaning that “it opens up when we need bandwidth and closes up when we don't,” says Beth Blood, business coordinator for Internet Access Services Inc., the center's in-house technical support company. A DS-3 line can achieve data speeds up to 45 Mbps (equivalent to 28 T1 lines), easily fast enough to do webcasting or videoconferencing from the show floor. In fact, at the recent Adventure Travel Show, Outside Magazine streamed live video from video cameras trained on wildlife in the Alaska wilderness. Attendees could direct the cameras in Alaska from the computer on the Rosemont show floor.
In addition to network and bandwidth issues, Internet Access Services can help planners with rentals. On a nonexclusive basis, the company offers computers, printers, monitors, kiosks, and other technical equipment.
Bricks and Mortar Too
Wires aren't the only things new at the center. Early this summer, construction will wrap up on 145,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, bringing the center's total to 850,000 square feet. Additional meeting space may be coming as well: The center is just a pedestrian bridge away from the Rosemont Conference Center and Donald E. Stephens Ballroom. Tentative plans are under way to add 30,000 square feet of meeting space to the conference center's current 50,000 square feet.
Besides the conference center, pedestrian bridges will take you from the convention center to the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency O'Hare, the 297-suite Rosemont Suite Hotel O'Hare, and 300-room Hotel Sofitel Chicago-O'Hare.